New York Mayor Eric Adams Proclaims May 31 Ellsworth Kelly Day as Museums Across the U.S. Celebrate the Artist’s Centenary

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New York Mayor Eric Adams has officially proclaimed today, May 31, Ellsworth Kelly Day.

The special designation comes after a coalition of local institutions—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Whitney Museum of American Art—joined together to appeal to the Mayor’s office to honor the late artist on what would have been his 100th birthday.

“In recognition of the many creative geniuses who have contributed to our stellar status as an internationally renowned cultural destination, I am pleased to shine a spotlight on the late Ellsworth Kelly whose imagination, perspective, and skill emboldened abstract artists across the globe and positively transformed our creative landscape,” Adams wrote in his proclamation. 

“Kelly’s enduring vision is inimitable,” the Mayor went on, “and on the occasion of today’s event recognizing what would have been his 100th birthday, I am pleased to commend his resolute passion and indelible imprint upon the five boroughs and beyond.”

Kelly, who died in 2015, grew up in the small town of Newburgh, New York, and lived his final decades in Spencertown, also upstate. Between those two periods came a 15-year stretch he spent in New York City, during which he mastered the color-obsessed, hard-edged style that would become his signature. 

Ellsworth Kelly Day arrives amid an ambitious, country-wide centennial celebration for the pioneering painter, organized by his foundation. 

In New York, MoMA has two shows dedicated to the artist: “A Centennial Celebration,” which comprises three Kelly works from the institution’s permanent collection, and “Ellsworth Kelly’s Sketchbooks,” which brings together 25 of the artist’s preparatory pads, all recently donated to the institution by his widower, Jack Shear. 

Ellsworth Kelly, Untitled (1982) at Lever House, 2023. Photo: Timothy Schenck.

Meanwhile, Lever House, an office building in midtown Manhattan, has inaugurated its own exhibition program with a one-year public presentation of Kelly’s sculptures and maquettes. It’s on view for free in and outside of the property. 

The artist’s fete extends well beyond his home state too. The Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, has mounted “Ellsworth Kelly at 100,” a major survey of the painter’s career and contributions to American abstraction. In July, the Art Institute of Chicago will show “Ellsworth Kelly Portrait Drawings,” a presentation of 95 intimate portraits he made between 1944 to 2002, most of which have never been seen publicly.  

Other concurrent Kelly shows are taking place at the Blanton Museum of Art, the Edward Hopper House Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. 

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