Steel sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly to rise outside Barnes

The Barnes Foundation will unveil a new public sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly Tuesday.

The minimalist artist crafted a steel monolith with a zigzag in the middle for the front of the foundation’s new home in Philadelphia.

The sculpture updates the collection Dr. Albert Barnes amassed in the early 20th century.

The last time Ellsworth Kelly visited the Barnes Foundation, it was in Lower Merion and he had it all to himself.

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It was a day the galleries were closed, so he asked the late Philadelphia Museum of Art director Anne d’Harnoncourt to get VIP access.

“We weren’t going to do any damage,” said Kelly. “They said, the only thing you should do is turn on a light when you enter, and turn off a light when you leave. So we spent the morning there. It was fantastic.”

Kelly is in Philadelphia again to raise a 40-foot, textured steel sculpture called “The Barnes Totem.” Looking like a puzzle piece from the video game Tetris, the totem is actually two hollow bars of steel bolted together, one climbing higher than the other.

“I wanted something that grew out of the ground, “said Kelly. “The second piece is held by the one that’s in the ground. That one goes up into the sky, reaching.”

“The Barnes Totem,” standing at the edge of a reflecting pool near the entrance to the new Barnes galleries on the Parkway, was commissioned by the Neubauer Family Foundation as a gift to the Barnes. Kelly still supports the Barnes moving, saying the more accessible collection will be “liberated” on the Parkway.

The Neubauer Family Foundation is a major supporter of WHYY.

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