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Ellsworth Kelly installs his sculpture on the grounds of the new Barnes Foundation
Ellsworth Kelly's sculpture entitled "The Barnes Totem" stands in the garden of The Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in Philadelphia. The art museum's new campuses is scheduled to open May 19. The Neubauer Family Foundation commissioned the sculpture. AP Photo/Matt Rourke.
PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Barnes Foundation installed 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.

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 has been installed at the end of a reflecting pool, where it stands 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 complements the richly textured limestone and bronze fins of the building's exterior. The sculpture also echoes 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."

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.

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April 11, 2012

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