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Clarification: A big fat Philly flub


November 25, 2004   ·   4 Comments


Post from Sid Sachs

[Sachs is responding to a comment in one of the MoMA reopening posts. — the editors]

The Ellsworth Kelly “Sculpture for a Large Wall” (sic.) was not RESCUED from the Transportation Building in Philadelphia since the building is still there and in better shape than ever. It was sold by Ronald Rubin for about $100,000 and no one raised an eyebrow and then Matthew Marks turned around and sold it to the Lauder’s for about $1,000,000.

“Sculpture for Philadelphia” was commissioned by Vincent Kling. It was Kelly’s first sculpture, first commission and one of the first uses of anodized aluminum in fine art in America. The fact that no one complained when this unique masterpiece left Philadelphia while they raised $200,000 to retain Isiah Zagar‘s kitschery makes Sid a very sad man. And the quality of the work and its importance is attested to by the fact that MOMA used it every chance it could in ads and bus stop kiosks. I guess that’s all you can expect in a city that goes gaga over murals and THINKS it is number one in public art. IS ANYONE THERE?

–Sid Sachs is director of the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at the University of the Arts. He is one of our contributors.

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4 Responses to “Clarification: A big fat Philly flub”

  1. I, along with others, just finished installing this piece at the Barnes Foundation, in its temporary return to Philadelphia, and I have to say, sad that it couldn’t stay in Philadelphia all along. I agree with what Sid Sachs says above, but I believe that Kelly himself had a role in rescuing it from being demolished or otherwise trashed much like the brass screens he’d designed for the building’s restaurant. But Sachs’ other statements about Philadelphia and art, that I’m reading here nine years later? I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. Sid Sachs says:

    The brass screens were part of the Kelly commission in the cafeteria in the (then) Transportation Building. From what I understand when Greyhound left that building to go to the new terminal on Filbert Street, The Kelly screen went into storage in Chicago where Greyhound had its American headquarters. The screen went missing after it was stored there, not in Philadelphia. It had nothing to do with Philadelphia though I think Kelly somehow thought it did. When I worked for the Locks Gallery in the mid 1990s, I had some correspondences with Kelly re this and he was desperate to find this brass screens.

    The sale of the anodized sculpture has nothing to do with this.If Kelly was afraid this work would be trashed then he could have contacted Anne D’Harnoncourt or Penny Bach. This was all commerce, bad faith and rewriting of history. If not, why the name change? Why isn’t the Kelly still called Sculpture for Philadelphia as it was when it was commissioned? Why the loan now? Because he got another big commission and so did Matthew Marks. Marks is a great gallerist but Philadelphia should have had the option to own a work that is and was its heritage.

    MoMA and New York didn’t need another masterpiece.

    That being said I am glad to be able to see the Kelly again.

  3. Sid Sachs says:

    Here are the donors for the Kelly exhibit at the Barnes:

    Jeanette and Joe Neubauer with additional generous support from Agnes Gund and Gordon Gund, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, Comcast|NBCUniversal, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, Johnson Art and Education Foundation, Leigh and John Middleton, Hilarie and Mitchell Morgan, Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman, Aileen and Brian Roberts, Katherine and Keith Sachs, and an anonymous donor. Support for the accompanying publication is generously provided by Matthew Marks Gallery and Christie’s.

    Now where were they when the Kelly was leaving Philadelphia and still being shown at Matthew Marks the first time. Why wasn’t there an uproar like when the Eakins Gross Clinic was being sold?

    And actually what does Kelly have to do with the Barnes anyway? Nothing, other than the commission outside the Barnes. How long ago was the Kelly exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? We know have redundancy in programming as the Arcadia exhibit was at PMA when the Barnes opened.The canon isn’t being explored, it is being reified.

    I can see the next project being a Rothko exhibit because Milton Avery was one of the last artists that Barnes purchased and Rothko was influenced by and a dear friend of Avery. Rothko used color and Barnes loved color. The formalism is mind bogging. After that we will see the influence of Clement Greenberg on American painting because modernist art was flat and Barnes had flat walls. The logic of the Kelly show to Barnes makes this much sense.

    150 million dollars could have created a Museum of Contemporary Art on the Parkway instead of the Mausoleum of Modern Art.

  4. jl47 says:

    Here is a long Inky piece from 1998 on the sad and preventable loss of this sculpture-

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