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The Barnes Foundation installs new sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly

The Barnes Foundation installs a major new sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly in the garden of the Foundation’s new building in Fairmount Park on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Ellsworth Kelly was in attendance for the installation.

Ellsworth Kelly, The Barnes Totem

Kelly, widely acknowledged as one of the great masters of contemporary art, was commissioned through the generosity of The Neubauer Family Foundation to create the sculpture, entitled The Barnes Totem.

The soaring, 40-foot-high abstract sculpture will be installed at the end of a reflecting pool, where it will stand at the intersection of two walkways of trees. This site was selected by Ellsworth Kelly himself in collaboration with Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and landscape architect Laurie Olin. The sculpture is in harmony with the design language of both the building and the landscape architecture. The bead-blasted surface of the stainless steel work will complement the richly textured limestone and bronze fins of the building’s exterior. The sculpture will also echo the vertical forms of the red maples lining the path toward the building’s entrance, contributing to Laurie Olin’s sensitive landscape design, which includes a number of horticultural elements that evoke the setting of the original Barnes Foundation building in Merion. Kelly’s focus on line, form, color, and spatial relationships finds resonance in the formal elements at the heart of Barnes’s aesthetic theory and teaching practice—light, line, color, and space.

“Created in the great tradition of monumental sculpture, The Barnes Totem works with its surroundings to focus and heighten one’s sense of being in a special place, while at the same time presents a dramatic artistic statement of great strength, beauty and integrity,” said Derek Gillman, Executive Director and President of the Barnes Foundation. “We are deeply grateful to The Neubauer Family Foundation for enabling us to add this magnificent work of sculpture to our campus and to the cultural landscape of Philadelphia.”

“We wanted to celebrate this significant moment in Barnes’s history,” said Joe Neubauer. “Thanks to the generosity of many, the new building is almost complete and the future of the Barnes is secure. When we re-open, the collection and our educational programs will be more accessible than ever before to audiences important to Dr. Barnes. Artists have always been inspired by this collection. The power and presence of The Barnes Totem, will pay tribute to the enduring value of art, the unique genius of Dr Barnes’ legacy, and the manifestation of both in the 21st century.”

About Ellsworth Kelly
Born in 1923, Ellsworth Kelly began to develop his distinctive approach to abstraction in the late 1940s in Paris, where he had gone to study on the G.I. Bill. In 1954 he returned to the U.S. and continued creating paintings whose abstract forms, contours and contrasts of line or tone were based on observations of the built environment and the natural world. By the late 1950s Kelly was also making sculptures, using cut-out forms that he juxtaposed against walls or set outdoors. Working against conventional expectations, he typically made these sculptures so they could be seen to be flat, whereas the paintings (often done on shaped supports) were treated as objects present in the three-dimensional world. In 1970, Kelly left New York City and moved upstate, where he found inspiration in his new rural environment, and where his artistic practice began to include the creation of large-scale outdoor sculptures in metal. Over the years, his sculptures have tended to take either the form of wall reliefs or of free-standing totems (as at the Barnes Foundation). He has made public commissions for sites and institutions in cities including New York, Paris, Barcelona, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston and Dallas.

About the Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes holds one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive holdings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast, old master paintings, important examples of African sculpture and Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles, American paintings and decorative arts, and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. The Barnes Foundation’s Art and Aesthetics programs engage a diverse array of audiences. These programs, occurring at the Philadelphia campus, online, and in Philadelphia communities, advance the mission through progressive, experimental, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

The Barnes Arboretum, located at the Merion campus, contains more than 2000 species/varieties of trees and woody plants, many of them rare. Founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and subsequently added to under the direction of Mrs. Barnes, the collection includes a fern-leaf beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Laciniata’), a dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and a redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other important plant collections include Lilacs, Peonies, Stewartias and Magnolias. The Horticulture school at the Barnes Foundation in Merion offers a comprehensive, three year certificate course of study in the botanical sciences, horticultural practices, garden aesthetics, and design through a well-grounded, scientific learning experience since its inception in 1940 by Laura L. Barnes. –

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