Ellsworth Kelly’s last projects are also firsts: photography show and $23m building

Initiatives in New York and Texas


The Matthew Marks Gallery in New York will stage the first-ever exhibition of photographs by Ellsworth Kelly, who died on 27 December. The show (24 February-30 April) is due to include more than 40 pictures taken between 1950, when the artist was living in France, and 1982, after he had moved to Spencertown, New York. The exhibition was among the final projects the artist completed before his death at the age of 92. An accompanying catalogue published by the gallery, which will continue to represent the artist’s estate, will be the first to focus on his photographs.

Meanwhile, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, will complete Kelly’s first work of architecture, titled Austin. “He had a chance to make sure all the details met his vision” before his death, says the Blanton’s director Simone Wicha, adding: “We communicated with the studio on a weekly basis about everything from the colour and materials we would use for the plates for electric outlets, to discussing the wood samples for the building’s doors.” The museum has raised $3m of a projected $5m endowment for long-term conservation of the $23m building, which is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Demand for work by Kelly has grown in recent years. Of the ten most expensive works sold at auction, nine have sold since 2010. (The most expensive work, the 13-part painting Spectrum VI (1969), sold for $5.2m with buyer’s premium in 2007.) Partly owing to the consistency of Kelly’s work (he often revisited motifs throughout his career), no single period dominates the market. The earliest of the top ten works sold was Orange Blue I (1964-65) and the latest, an untitled sculpture, was made in 1996. “Scarcity has always been a factor in Kelly’s market strength,” says the art adviser Kristy Bryce, adding that he never overproduced. “His market has been well established over many decades, has been well managed by his primary gallery, and he has a robust secondary market—all of which suggest that his market should remain strong into the future.” Kelly’s estate could not be reached for comment.