Artists' Perspectives: Ellsworth Kelly on Bird in Space, by Constantin Brancusi

On the occasion of the exhibition Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings (on view June 5–September 3, 2012), the artist recorded his thoughts about various works of art in the Met's collection.

Ellsworth Kelly: The bird by Brancusi. I've never really examined this curve, where it starts at the point and comes out a little bit. Then it goes in, and then there's this wonderful thing that shoots down. I call this a free curve, because it's not a radial curve. It's not a part of a circle. The radial curve is more structural, more like with architecture. And a free curve, it's more like the body.

Brancusi himself gave me some advice. I called him up once. This was 1950. And he said, "Who is this? What do you want?" And I said, "I'm an art student, I'm an American, and I want to come see you." And he said, "Tuesdays at 2:00," in his studio. And all these things were there.

He showed me a piece of wood. And when he had it by his bed when he was sick, it sprouted a little sprig with some leaves. And he called that a miracle. And so that's why he told me—he gave me advice and said, "Go get a piece of wood and contemplate it."


Constantin Brancusi (French, born Romania, 1876–1957). Bird in Space, 1923. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn, 1995 (1996.403.7ab). © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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