On Loan from the UBS Art Collection: Ellsworth Kelly at He Art Museum

The He Art Museum, also known as HEM, opened in Shunde, Guangdong in 2021. Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Tadao Ando, the Museum is currently showing the Japanese architect’s first art exhibition “Beyond: Tadao Ando and Art”.

The exhibition features Ando’s architectural sketches, sculptures, photographs and paintings. The exhibition provides a lens into Ando’s artistic influences and explores the architect-artist’s oeuvre through three chapters: Beyond Art, Beyond Light and Beyond Ando.

Having encountered works by Ellsworth Kelly at the Garden of Fine Arts Kyoto, an open-air museum designed by Ando, Kelly remains an important inspiration to the architect and artist. On loan from the UBS Art Collection is Ellsworth Kelly’s work, ‘Spectrum’, 1972. The work suggests a symbiotic relationship between art and architecture, a concept that is central to and reoccurs throughout Ando’s career.

The first chapter of Ando’s largest solo exhibition in China to date sheds light on to the inspirations behind one of the world’s most creative minds. The Beyond Art section, which features the Ellsworth Kelly loan from the UBS Art Collection, includes works by ten masters who have had a profound influence on Ando’s creations, including Pablo Picasso, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Richard Long among others.

Mary Rozell, Global Head of the UBS Art Collection explains, “We are delighted that Ellsworth Kelly’s seminal work, ‘Spectrum’, will be a highlight of ‘Beyond: Tadao Ando and Art’. Ando is celebrated for his considered designs that reinterpret the dialogue between architecture and art. It is exciting that this exceptional work from the UBS Art Collection will play a role in calling attention to his inspirations, ideas and creations.”

Ellsworth Kelly (born 1923, Newburgh, NY), is an internationally acclaimed American painter, printmaker, and sculptor, associated with the Minimalism, Color field painting, and Hard edge painting movements. Shape, line and space are strongly emphasized in much of Kelly’s work, and in particular, color has been the subject of intense and consistent focus in the artist’s career.

‘Spectrum’, on display at the He Art Museum, is related to the collages that Kelly began in the early 1950s when he was in the South of France – a period when he began to work more extensively with color, exploring relationships, systems and composition.

When composing his work, Kelly often made use of collage techniques and cut-outs to balance the relationship between form and color, similar to Ando’s balance of form and light. ‘Spectrum’ is a horizontal collage of 13 rectangular, color-saturated paper cut-out strips. These vertical bands of color are concrete units, separated by narrow bars of negative space, offering a sense of space and depth. By combining primary colors with varying degrees of their intermediary values of green, purple and orange, a continuum is created. This exceptional work exemplifies the artist’s collage technique and his deep observation of the color spectrum.

Finding parallels in Kelly and Ando’s simple yet instinctive forms, He Art Museum Executive Director Shao Shu said, “The exhibition, the first exhibition of Tadao Ando threaded with artworks, delivers powerful stories behind the great architect and artist, set within a historical narrative that contextualises his creative endeavours.”