Frank Stella looks back on 55 years of making art

Certainly one of the most recognizable names in American art, Frank Stella once famously proclaimed of his paintings that “what you see is what you see.”

The youngest artist to ever receive a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art—in 1970, at age 34—he carved his name into American art history with his innovative shaped canvases.


His work collapsed the distinction between painting and sculpture by reminding viewers that paintings start as three-dimensional objects. Nor did they constitute flat abstract planes whose domains extended only as far as the edge of the canvas.

Instead, his paintings were things, objects in a room like any other, be it a statue or stick of furniture. This proposition—painting as wall relief—turned out to allow for an incredible, sometimes florid, variety of pieces that started out in the late 1950s and early 1960s as relatively restrained contoured canvases and ended up as today’s dizzying arrays of shapes, colors and forms, protruding into space—often three-dimensionally.


The arc of Stella’s 50-plus-year career is revisited as the Whitney marshals some 120 objects for this, the most comprehensive survey of his art ever mounted.

What is a COA and why are they important?

Find peace in mind knowing when you shop at GallArt.com that the artwork you purchase is genuine and always comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 12.48.22 PMWhat Is a Certificate of Authenticity?

A Certificate of Authenticity is a bit like an artwork’s birth certificate, passport and quality guarantee all rolled into one.

Essentially, a COA is a document, created by the artist or someone who is an expert on the artist, which accompanies an artwork and contains all the information a collector could need to verify if the piece of art is genuine.

A Certificate of Authenticity (COA) provides a lot of concrete detail about a piece, but by existing for a particular piece, it says even more. An artwork that has a COA is one that is made by a professional practicing artist, not an amateur. It is a piece that has collectible value. The Certificate adds a tangible credibility to the work. It can help the work hold its value.

The COA is held to be an indirect promise of quality. Art pieces that have a COA have usually been made by an artist who cares about their work, its longevity and their collectors. The piece is likely to have been created from the best materials available, be designed to last and been created by an expert. Back to the concrete details, the Certificate will provide all the information on the medium(s) of the piece needed for conservation that might otherwise be lost forever.

Certificates protect the artist and the buyer by helping to prove that an artwork is original. Cheap copies sold without an artist’s knowledge or consent is unfortunately common. Without a COA attached, this situation makes it next to impossible for the buyer to be confident of the value of the piece or for the artist to maintain their credibility and their livelihood.

As an art collector, you really must only buy Fine Art pieces that are backed by a Certificate of Authenticity. This helps ensure that what you have bought at a premium is genuine and not counterfeit.

Francis Bacon Triptych – August 1972

Triptych - August 1972 (1972)

Triptych – August 1972 (1972)

Can we just admire this Francis Bacon triptych (Triptych – August, 1972) for a moment?

This work is generally considered one in a series of Black Triptychs which followed the suicide of Bacon’s lover, George Dyer. Dyer appears on the left and Bacon is on the right.The central group is derived from a photograph of wrestlers by Edward Muybridge, but also suggests a more sexual encounter. The seated figures and their coupling are set against black voids and the central flurry has been seen as ‘a life-and-death struggle’. The artist’s biographer wrote: ‘What death has not already consumed seeps incontinently out of the figures as their shadows.’

See more images of the triptych here. Or you can view it live on our webcam 24/7: GallArt.com Front Camera 

Yves Klein: The Man Who Invented A Color

One summer’s day in 1947, three young men were sitting on a beach in Nice in the south of France. To pass the time, they decided to play a game and divide up the world between them. One chose the animal kingdom, another the province of plants.

The third man opted for the mineral realm, before lying back and staring up at the ultramarine infinity of the heavens. Then, with the contentment of someone who had suddenly decided what course his life should take, he turned to his friends and announced, “The blue sky is my first artwork.”

That man was Yves Klein, whom the New Yorker’s art critic Peter Schjeldahl described in 2010 as “the last French artist of major international consequence”. In a period of prodigious creativity lasting from 1954 to his death from a third heart attack at the age of 34 in 1962, Klein altered the course of Western art.

He did so thanks to his commitment to the spiritually uplifting power of color: gold, rose, but above all, blue. In fact, his chromatic devotion was so profound that in 1960 he patented a color of his own invention, which he called International Klein Blue.

Razzle dazzle

Born in 1928 with two painters for parents, Klein always displayed a penchant for showmanship. He loved magic as well as the arcane rituals of the mystical Rosicrucian society, and the influence of both would later manifest itself in his work.

After spending a year and a half in the early 1950s mastering judo in Japan, where he earned a black belt, he eventually settled in Paris and devoted himself to art. His first exhibition of monochrome paintings in various colors was held in the private showrooms of a Parisian publishing house in 1955.

Yves Klein paintings on display as part of Blue Revolution exhibition at the Mumok Museum in Vienna in 2007 (Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images)


His short career was characterized by many radical gestures, often touched with his flair for spectacle. To celebrate the opening of a solo exhibition in 1957, for instance, he released 1,001 helium-filled blue balloons in the St-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris. The following year, an exhibition now known as ‘The Void’ consisted of nothing more than an empty gallery – yet it attracted a crowd of 2,500 people that had to be dispersed by police.

Leap Into the Void, his famous black-and-white photograph of 1960, presents Klein soaring upwards from the parapet of a building like a Left Bank Superman. Like all feats of magic, though, the photograph is actually a trick: in this case a montage, so that the tarpaulin held by some friends, which would have softened Klein’s landing, has disappeared.

Perhaps his most notorious performance, though, occurred in March 1960, at the opening of his Anthropometries of the Blue Epoch exhibition in Paris. On this occasion, footage of which can be viewed online, Klein appeared before an audience wearing a formal tailcoat and white bow-tie. While nine musicians played his Monotone-Silence Symphony (a single note drawn out for 20 minutes, followed by a further 20 minutes of quiet), Klein directed three naked models as they covered themselves with sticky blue paint, before imprinting images of their bodies upon a white canvas. The models had become, he said, “living brushes”.

Klein photographed in front of one of his Blue Sponge Sculptures in the late 1950s (Express Newspapers/Getty Images)


“The genius of Klein is becoming more and more apparent,” says Catherine Wood, Tate Modern’s curator of contemporary art and performance. “He has been dismissed by some art historians as a charlatan or – because of his use of naked female models – as conventional and sexist, but his strategies were playfully critical and are becoming more significant in their influence for the younger generation. It could be argued that he was a critical prankster on par with Duchamp.”

Expanding the spectrum

For all his influence on conceptual art, though, Klein was most preoccupied with color. As early as 1956, while on holiday in Nice, he experimented with a polymer binder to preserve the luminescence and powdery texture of raw yet unstable ultramarine pigment. He would eventually patent his formula as International Klein Blue (IKB) in 1960.

Before that, though, he made his name with an exhibition held in Milan in January 1957 that included 11 of his unframed, identical signature blue monochromes, one of which was bought by the Italian artist Lucio Fontana. This show ushered in what Klein called his “Blue Revolution”, and soon he was slapping IKB onto all sorts of objects, such as sponges, globes and busts of Venus. Even his ‘living brushes’ dipped their flesh in IKB.

Art historians still debate the significance of Klein’s use of ultramarine. For some, it represented a break with angst-ridden abstraction, which was popular in the wake of World War II. Painted mechanically using a roller, Klein’s flat, blank monochromes seemed to rebuff expressionist art.

Klein’s Blue Sponge Sculptures (Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images)


For other scholars, though, Klein’s depth less monochromes and obsession with ‘the void’ can be understood as expressions of the threat of nuclear holocaust. “We absolutely must realize – and this is no exaggeration – that we are living in the atomic age,” Klein once said, “where all physical matter can vanish from one day to the next to surrender its place to what we can envision as the most abstract.”

Yet perhaps his love of blue is less specific and more profound. Klein was a pious Catholic, and in religious art blue often represents eternity and godliness. For instance, Giotto, whom Klein admired, was a brilliant advocate of blue. Klein’s ultramarine monochromes are not overtly Christian, but he certainly used the sensuousness of IKB to suggest spirituality. As he once said, “At first there is nothing, then there is a profound nothingness, after that a blue profundity.”

Certainly, his rich, radiant monochromes share a singular characteristic: they all have a vertiginous quality that seems to suck us out of reality towards another, immaterial dimension. The effect of looking at them is not dissimilar to meditating upon a deep azure sky – something that Klein perhaps intuited as a young man, on that beach in Nice in 1947.

Klein’s 1960 painting Great Blue Anthropophagy, Homage to Tennessee Williams (Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty Images)


When considering Klein, then, it is important to remember that for all his stunts and attention-grabbing performances he was a sensualist as much as a provocateur – and that this accounts for his fondness for color. “For Klein, pure color offered a way of using art not as a means of painting a picture, but as a way of creating a spiritual, almost alchemical experience, beyond time, approaching the immaterial,” explains Kerry Brougher, who curated the major retrospective Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, in 2010.

“Out of all the colors Klein used, ultramarine blue became the most important. Unlike many other colors, which create opaque blockages, ultramarine shimmers and glows, seemingly opening up to immaterial realms. Klein’s blue monochromes are not paintings but experiences, passageways leading to the void.”

Alastair Sooke is art critic of The Daily Telegraph – View our Yves Klein Sculpture here.

Alexander Calder Two Part Exhibition

Alexander Calder Occident, 1975 Gouache and ink on paper 29 x 43 inches (73.6 x 109.2 cm) © 2014 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Alexander Calder
Occident, 1975
Gouache and ink on paper
29 x 43 inches (73.6 x 109.2 cm)
© 2014 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

8 May – 14 June 2014

What I produce is not precisely what I have in mind—but a sort of sketch, a man-made approximation. That others grasp what I have in mind seems unessential … as long as they have something else in theirs.
—Alexander Calder

Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition of Alexander Calder’s gouache paintings on paper. The exhibition is in two parts, the first in New York and the second in London.

In the late 1920s, Calder’s new method of sculpting—bending and twisting wire to “draw” three-dimensional figures in space—resonated with both early Conceptual and Constructivist art, as well as the language of early abstract painting. Seeking to capture the constant motion of life, he created kinetic sculptures in which flat, abstract shapes in light sheet metal, painted in a restricted palette of black, white, or bright primary colors, hang in perfect balance from wires. Marcel Duchamp was the first to describe the new works as “mobiles,” while his later standing “stabiles” employed welding and bolting techniques to reject the weight and solidity of sculptural mass, to produce forms that were both linear and planar, open and suggestive of motion. By 1950, Calder had achieved international renown, affording him opportunities to engineer his sculpture on a monumental scale. (Via ARTnews.com)

View our amazing Alexander Calder collection here.

Calder And Abstraction: From Avant-Garde To Iconic

Alexander Calder Eucalyptus, 1940 sheet metal, wire, and paint 94 1/2 x 61 inches Calder Foundation, New York; Gift of Andréa Davidson, Shawn Davidson, Alexander S.C. Rower, & Holton Rower, 2010. © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo courtesy Calder Foundation, New York/Art Resource, NY.

Alexander Calder
Eucalyptus, 1940
sheet metal, wire, and paint
94 1/2 x 61 inches
Calder Foundation, New York; Gift of Andréa Davidson, Shawn Davidson, Alexander S.C. Rower, & Holton Rower, 2010. © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo courtesy Calder Foundation, New York/Art Resource, NY.

24 November 2013 – 27 July 2014

One of the most important artists of the twentieth century, Alexander Calder revolutionized modern sculpture. Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, with significant cooperation from the Calder Foundation, explores the artist’s radical translation of French Surrealist vocabulary into American vernacular. His most iconic works, coined mobiles by Marcel Duchamp, are kinetic sculptures in which flat pieces of painted metal connected by wire move delicately in the air, propelled by motors or air currents. His later stabiles are monumental structures, whose arching forms and massive steel planes continue his engagement with dynamism and daring innovation. Although this will be his first museum exhibition in Los Angeles, Calder holds a significant place in LACMA’s history: the museum commissioned Three Quintains (Hello Girls) for its opening in 1965. The installation was designed by architect Frank O. Gehry.

Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in cooperation with the Calder Foundation, New York. Funding provided by LACMA’s Art Museum Council and Phillips. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. (Via ArtNews.org)

View our Alexander Calder Collection at GallArt.com


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