The Foundation for Contemporary Arts in New York have unveiled The Ellsworth Kelly Award, a new $40,000 annual grant. It is the largest single cash contribution in FCA’s fifty-three-year history and continues FCA’s long legacy of artists supporting artists. The $1m bequest from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation will fund an endowment to support artists.
The Ellsworth Kelly Award is a $40,000 grant to support a solo exhibition by an emerging, mid-career, or under-recognized contemporary visual artist at a regional art museum or university or college art gallery in the United States. The program and selection process will be administered by FCA. The first recipient of The Ellsworth Kelly Award is the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, for a solo exhibition of film, video, and sculpture by filmmaker and artist Cauleen Smith in fall 2018, curated by Anthony Elms. Ms. Smith was a recipient of FCA’s Grants to Artists award in 2014 ($30,000).
“Ellsworth recognized that a museum exhibition can be transformative for an artist’s career, and this award is intended to provide that opportunity to artists,” said Jack Shear, President of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. “Ellsworth loved museums and understood their importance in preserving our cultural heritage. The Ellsworth Kelly Foundation has a long history of support for museums in the United States and throughout the world, with a particular emphasis on the conservation of art works. FCA, with their deep involvement in the artist community, is the ideal partner for this new initiative to support museum exhibitions for contemporary artists.”
Throughout its history, FCA has raised funds through the sale of artwork contributed by over 900 visual artists to its benefit exhibitions. Proceeds from these exhibitions fund grants made to individual artists. The Ellsworth Kelly Award continues FCA’s pioneering model of artists supporting their peers.
“Ellsworth Kelly was a great friend to FCA, contributing many paintings, drawings, and prints to our benefit exhibitions. His donations helped sustain FCA’s programs and support its growth over five decades. We are honored to receive this gift and proud to establish this new award in his name,” said Stacy Tenenbaum Stark, Executive Director of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. “We only wish Ellsworth were still with us to announce the award he helped to create.
“This will be the first major solo exhibition of Cauleen’s work,” Stark continued. “We are pleased that FCA can further impact her work and career through The Ellsworth Kelly Award.”
A request for proposals for The Ellsworth Kelly Award will be issued by FCA each spring to a small group of art museums and university or college art galleries, alternating between the eastern and western United States, with the Missouri River as the dividing line. The inaugural grant cycle was conducted in spring 2016 in the eastern states and will move west in 2017.
Continuing its “by artists, for artists” approach, FCA’s Board of Directors reviews the invited applications and selects The Ellsworth Kelly Award recipient. The current Directors of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts are Cecily Brown, Anthony B. Creamer III, Robert Gober, Anne Dias Griffin, Agnes Gund, Jasper Johns, Julian Lethbridge, Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, and T.J. Wilcox.
The Ellsworth Kelly Award joins three other permanently endowed awards at FCA: the biennial John Cage Award, the biennial Merce Cunningham Award, and the annual Robert Rauschenberg Award. These three awards recognize artists who were instrumental to FCA’s founding.
“The Directors are pleased that Ellsworth’s longtime support of FCA has culminated in this imaginative award in his name,” said Jasper Johns, who founded the Foundation for Contemporary Arts with John Cage in 1963.
Ellsworth Kelly in his studio (photo by Jack Shear) via Twitter