Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

James Turrell Gifts Mattress Factory with a Skyspace

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

James Turrell Gifts Mattress Factory with a Skyspace

Article excerpt

The following CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION appeared on February 4, 2016. Architect Arthur Lubetz's name was misspelled in a story Wednesday about a gift from artist James Turrell to the Mattress Factory.

A gift of a major contemporary artwork with an estimated value of at least $1 million is always significant in the museum realm. The recently announced donation of a Skyspace by James Turrell to the Mattress Factory goes far beyond that because of a relationship between the artist and the museum that began more than three decades ago.

In 1980, Mr. Turrell had been given his first important museum exhibition by the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan. Mattress Factory co-directors Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk decided to set up a meeting with the artist on a Tribeca street corner, she said.

"I said, in my totally pompous way, having had a show at the Whitney you should definitely have a show at the Mattress Factory. He said OK."

They solidified exhibition plans during a taxi ride to the East Side.

Ms. Luderowski asked for only one Turrell work, but Ryan Homes donated twice the amount of construction material the museum requested. Mr. Turrell completed two works that have been in the permanent collection since 1983.

"Dana" was the artist's first Space Division construction and "Pleiades" the first of his Dark Spaces series, said Mr. Olijnyk. "Catso, Red," a Turrell work from 1967, was installed in 1994. Mr. Turrell literally and figuratively lit up the museum in celebration of its 25th anniversary with a multiwork exhibition in 2002.

Fast forward to last year. Mr. Turrell, 72, and Ms. Luderowski had kept in touch through regular telephone calls, and "I thought this was going to be one of those conversations," she said. But he was calling to tell her that he and his wife, Kyung-Lim Lee, had decided to donate a large observational chamber, a Skyspace, to the museum.

What prompted such a huge gift?

Ms. Luderowski noted the museum's upcoming 40th anniversary in 2017 and said that Mr. Turrell and Ms. Lee both appreciate the way Mattress Factory supports exhibiting artists. In comparison, art galleries are often limited by considerations of space and what will sell, Mr. Olijnyk said.

"There are not that many opportunities for large space and to occupy that space for large periods of time," Ms. Luderowski said.

"We provide the broadest possible visibility for the art. Many of our exhibitions run for six months, and [the museum's three Turrell works] are here for the rest of their lives."

Pittsburgh Skyspace

When Mr. Turrell came to finalize the Skyspace project last month, the museum staff pulled out the drafting board he had used in the 1980s and set him up in a room overlooking the parking lot where the work will be installed. …

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