Artists' Perspectives: Ellsworth Kelly on the Tlingit Ceremonial Copper

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: I'm looking now at a piece made from copper. I've worked in relief, I've worked in panels, and I've worked in shape, like this, with one curve and four straight lines and diagonals. So when I saw it, I said—before even painting anything like this, I said—"This has everything for me." And I think that this probably was something that pushed me into abstraction. The first one I saw was right after I arrived in Paris in 1948. And I made a small drawing of it then. It led me to search for one. And since then, I've collected several of them.

Andy Warhol had one of the ones that I got at auction that came after his death. And that was the first one that I owned. And since then, I've bought several others. But they make me feel extremely calm, and full of ideas. I find them extremely like me. I see myself in it.


Ceremonial Copper, 19th century. United States, Alaska. Tlingit. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.1142)

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