Ellsworth Kelly is having a moment, and at the ripe young age of 90, no less (Kelly’s 90th birthday was on May 31st). The artist is actively producing incredible artwork, which is being both bought and exhibited across the world. Matthew Marks is currently showing paintings and sculptures the artist has produced in the past two years, and “Ellsworth Kelly: Singular Forms,” a show of paintings and sculptures from 1966 to 2009, recently opened at the Mnuchin Gallery on the Upper East Side. Major New York museums are also exhibiting works by Kelly, including the Museum of Modern Art, which recently opened “Chatham Series,” an exhibition featuring a series of 14 paintings that haven’t been shown together in over 14 years. Venture outside of New York, and Kelly is permeating major institutions including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, and the Phillips Collection in Washington are all showing the artist’s work. Special installations at the Pompidou Center in Paris, the Tate Modern in London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are all scheduled to open soon. Talk about celebrating 90 years with a bang.
But it’s not just the art world that has been keen on celebrating the famed artist’s milestone birthday. The fashion world has taken note as well, and Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein in particular. The artist and designer recently collaborated to modernize a dress Kelly originally designed in 1952 while living in the south of France. Unlike many other contemporary artists, who actively engage in designing collaborative merchandise with big-name brands, Kelly has never done so, nor did he intend to even design dresses. But the story goes (as told by The New York Times) that Kelly was out shopping one day and bought bolts of cotton that he used to make “Red Yellow Blue White,” a five-panel painting in cloth now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The rest of the fabric was given to a friend, who he asked to design a dress connecting bands of color, each the same length. The friend did indeed create a dress, but made the bottom panel longer, at which point Kelly deemed the dress ruined. An idea unforgotten, Kelly was convinced to collaborate with Costa to recreate the original dress he envisioned, sheath featuring horizontal bands of color of equal symmetry. Only 10 were made, with one going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, another to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the other 8 are likely to find homes in museum collections as well.