Ellsworth Kelly

A Centennial Celebration

Feb 3–Jun 11, 2023


Ellsworth Kelly. Spectrum IV. 1967. Oil on canvas, 13 panels, 9' 9" × 9' 9" (297.2 × 297.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest and The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection (both by exchange), and gift of Irving Blum. © 2023 Ellsworth Kelly
  • MoMA, Floor 2, Atrium The Donald and Catherine Marron Family Atrium

“The most pleasurable thing in the world,” Ellsworth Kelly once remarked, “is to see something, and then to translate how I see it.” Born in 1923 in Newburgh, New York, Kelly had a unique vision fueled by his observations of the things around him. He took the things he noticed—from a bird outside his window to the shadow cast by a balcony—and used them as inspiration for abstract paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and even buildings. Over his seven-decade career, Kelly committed himself to studying line, form, and color, transforming some of the key concepts and conventions of modern art. For Kelly, careful looking was integral to understanding his work and artistic process. In one of the last interviews he gave before his death in 2015, he said, “I think my pictures need time. I like to leave my paintings to be mysterious…. I feel like they have to be looked at; they have to be investigated.”

In addition to showcasing the paintings Spectrum IV (1967) and Chatham VI (1971), this exhibition provides the rare chance to see Sculpture for a Large Wall, which Kelly made for the lobby of Philadelphia’s Transportation Building in 1957. It features 104 quadrilateral aluminum panels suspended between double rows of horizontal rods, which allow each panel to be positioned upright or tilted at an angle. It was created nearly a decade into Kelly’s career, when the artist had begun to dream of making work that functioned at the intersection of art and architecture. MoMA’s celebration of Kelly’s centennial continues in Gallery 416: Ellsworth Kelly’s Sketchbooks, which highlights the artist’s process on paper.

Organized by Ann Temkin, The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, with Lydia Mullin, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

Funding for the exhibition is provided by the Annual Exhibition Fund. Leadership contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund, in support of the Museum’s collection and collection exhibitions, are generously provided by the Sandra and Tony Tamer Exhibition Fund, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, Eva and Glenn Dubin, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Anne Dias, Kenneth C. Griffin, Alice and Tom Tisch, the Marella and Giovanni Agnelli Fund for Exhibitions, Mimi Haas, The David Rockefeller Council, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, and Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder. Major contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund are provided by Emily Rauh Pulitzer, The Sundheim Family Foundation, and Karen and Gary Winnick.


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].