"Medium Blue Panel" by Ellsworth Kelly on display at Christie's in New York in 2021 (photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Happy Ellsworth Kelly Day! The mayors of Austin and New York have officially declared May 31 “Ellsworth Kelly Day” to commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of the artist. To honor Kelly’s legacy, a year-long celebration of his seven-decade career takes form in several current and upcoming exhibitions across the US and Europe.

The American painter, sculptor, photographer, draftsman, and printmaker was a pioneer of the abstract Color Field movement in the 1940s and ’50s and became known for his Minimalist style, distinctive use of color and geometric shapes, and incorporation of hard-edge painting techniques. Born and raised in Newburgh, New York, Kelly lived and worked in the state up until his death in December 2015 at the age of 92. For his centennial, a number of institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC); the Lever House in New York City; the Edward Hopper House in Nyack; the Glenstone Museum in Potomac; and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art are celebrating his lasting legacy with a number of special shows and programs honoring both Kelly’s most famous and lesser-known contributions to the art world.

Through March 17, 2024, the Glenstone Museum is displaying an encyclopedic exhibition titled Ellsworth Kelly at 100, which brings together over 70 paintings, sculptures, paper works, and photographs including Kelly’s large-scale floor panel installation “Yellow Curve” (1990). In May 2024, the show will travel to the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and then to the Fire Station in Doha in October 2024.

Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” at the Blanton Museum (photo by Lars Plougmann via Flickr)

Earlier this month, Kelly’s local community in Columbia County also hosted several special events in honor of the artist’s centennial which included a town hall dedication in Austerlitz; a documentary film screening of Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments (2007); a show of Kelly’s exhibition posters at Spencertown Academy; and an open-house tour of the artist’s studio in Spencertown. In an exhibition on view until June 11 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Manhattan, where Kelly held his first retrospective in 1973, visitors can view the paintings “Spectrum IV” (1967) and “Chatham VI” (1971) as well as “Sculpture for a Large Wall” (1957), a site-specific work designed by the artist for Philadelphia’s Transportation Building.

From July 1 to October 23, visitors can explore Kelly’s drawings at the AIC in Ellsworth Kelly: Portrait Drawings. The show displays 95 intimate portraits the artist drew of himself and his friends between 1994 and 2002, in addition to drawings made when he was 21 years old during his military service in World War II. The AIC is planning an additional installation of Kelly’s works, which were recently gifted to the museum, and is expected to announce details soon.

The Ellsworth Kelly centennial is also being celebrated in several other exhibitions at the Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio in Rome, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gemini GEL in New York and Los Angeles, Peder Lund Gallery in Oslo, and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. The latter famously houses Kelly’s “Austin” (2015), an artist-designed, 2,715-square-foot stone structure whose facade is embedded with rows of colorful glass windows. A full overview of the centennial exhibitions can be viewed online

Maya Pontone (she/her) is a Staff News Writer at Hyperallergic. Originally from Northern New Jersey, she currently resides in Brooklyn, where she covers daily news, both within and outside New York City....