FCA Receives $1 Million Gift for New Ellsworth Kelly Award

It is the largest single cash endowment in the FCA's 53-year history.

Ellsworth Kelly in his studio, Spencertown, New York, 2009. Photo by Jack Shear, courtesy of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA) has received its largest single cash endowment in its 53-year history, as it’s been announced that the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation has made a $1 million donation for the establishment of a new annual award.

The Ellsworth Kelly Award will grant $40,000 annually to support a solo exhibition by an emerging, mid-career, or lesser-known contemporary visual artist at a regional art museum, university, or college art gallery in the US.

“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,” Jack Shear, president of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation said in a statement of Kelly, who passed away last December at age 92.

“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,” he added.

Since its inception in 1963, the FCA has been celebrated for its “for artists, by artists” approach. Its innovative model for funding grants allows artists to support their peers by selling donated artwork at so-called benefit exhibitions.

Walker Art Center's Martin Friedman, right, with Ellsworth Kelly. Photo courtesy Walker Art Center.

Walker Art Center’s Martin Friedman, right, with Ellsworth Kelly. Photo courtesy Walker Art Center.

Ellsworth Kelly was among huge names such as Marcel Duchamp, Alex Katz, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol who contributed to the foundation’s very first benefit exhibition. Since then, more than 2,600 grants—totaling nearly $12 million—have been awarded by FCA.

“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,” Stacy Tenenbaum Stark, the FCA’s executive director, said in a statement. “We only wish Ellsworth were still with us to announce the award he helped to create,” she added.

Each spring, a request for proposals for the Ellsworth Kelly Award will be issued to a small group of art institutions across the US. Winners are selected by FCA’s board of directors, which includes the artists Cecily Brown, Robert Gober, Jasper Johns, Julian Lethbridge, Glenn Ligon, and Kara Walker.

The inaugural award will be made to the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, for a solo exhibition taking place in 2018 of filmmaker and artist Cauleen Smith, who was also a recipient of the FCA’s $30,000 Grants to Artists award in 2014.

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