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mima Acquires Works by Legendary American Artist Ellsworth Kelly
"Untitled", 1957 and "Untitled", 1959 will be the two of the highlights of the exhibition. ©Ellsworth Kelly. Courtesy: Matthew Marks Gallery.

MIDDLESBROUGH.- Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art has bought two works by Ellsworth Kelly, a seminal figure in modern American art, with funding from the Art Fund International scheme, independent charity The Art Fund announced today.

The works, "Untitled", 1957 and "Untitled", 1959, have come directly from Ellsworth Kelly’s studio and were selected after extensive conversations between mima and the artist himself. They will go on display as part of the Ellsworth Kelly Drawings 1954-1962 exhibition opening at mima on 11 December.

"Untitled", 1957 and "Untitled", 1959 will be the two of the highlights of the exhibition. They were described recently by Kelly as ‘two of the most revealing and important drawings made at that time”. The exhibition will see all of the works on display in Europe for the first time.

mima is one of five UK museums and galleries each awarded £1million by The Art Fund to build their collections of international contemporary art over a five year period. mima is using the funding to build a collection of drawings made by artists living and working in North and South America; the gallery’s aim is to secure outstanding works by artists who are, or will become, internationally significant.

The gallery is also delighted to have acquired 11 additional works by influential American artists through the Art Fund International scheme; including works by Robert Breer, Robert Gober, Paul Sharits, Robert Smithson, Al Taylor and Kara Walker. A special exhibition at mima in 2010 will focus on work acquired by mima through Art Fund International. It will be the first time that many of these works will have been on public display in the UK; further details will be announced early next year.

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund said: “When we launched Art Fund International mima told us that they wanted to use the £1 million to create a world class contemporary drawing collection in Middlesbrough. Since then they have bought some exceptional works by important and influential American artists, and built close relationships with the artists themselves, ensuring that despite some stiff competition from collectors and bigger institutions, they have snared the best works available. I look forward to seeing this collection go from strength to strength.”

Kate Brindley, mima Director said: “It was a real joy to visit Ellsworth Kelly’s studio and meet him in person. We are extremely pleased to be acquiring the drawings that are a real asset to the collection. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the Drawing Center, New York to further develop this incredible strand to mima collection.”

Ellsworth Kelly said: “ I am delighted that mima has been able to buy two of my early works on paper thanks to the Art Fund International scheme – they are two of the most revealing and important drawings made at that time. mima is building a collection of international stature in the UK and I’m proud that my drawings will form a key part of that collection.

Now 86, New York-born Ellsworth Kelly is without question one of the most outstanding and influential American artists of the 20th century. Distinguished for his abstract style of pure color and form, Ellsworth Kelly has occupied the centre stage of American art for more than half a century. He pioneered a style that has been vital to the evolution of post-war American art. Derived from an observation of nature and executed with classical balance these two works offer a rare glimpse into Kelly’s unique approach to abstraction, and a celebration of pure colour and shape that has its roots in natural forms. These drawings, with their heart stopping elegance, will give visitors to the gallery a unique opportunity to encounter Ellsworth Kelly as an exploratory young artist after his return from Paris towards the end of the 1950s, where he had encountered and been influenced by artists such as Matisse, Picasso and Brancusi.

Ellsworth Kelly Drawings 1954-1962 will run until 21 February 2010.

Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly was born May 31, 1923, in Newburgh, New York. He studied at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, from 1941 to 1943. After military service from 1943 to 1945, he attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1946 to 1947. The following year, Kelly went to France and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris under the G.I. Bill. He had his first solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, 1956. His first retrospective exhibition of works on paper "Ellsworth Kelly: Works on Paper at The Forth Worth Museum of Art, 1987". "Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective" an exhibition spanning fifty years travelled to Tate in 1997 and the landmark exhibition "Ellsworth Kelly: Tablet 1948-1973" consisting of 188 works on paper was held at The Drawing Center, New York, 2002.

Notable recent exhibitions include "Ellsworth Kelly" at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 2006, the 52nd International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale and premiere of Checkerboard Film Foundation’s documentary "Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments in 2007", and Ellsworth Kelly Paris – New York 1949 – 1959 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He currently lives and works in New York.

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art | Ellsworth Kelly | The Art Fund |

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