Estate of Pioneering Abstractionist François Morellet Heads to Hauser & Wirth, Departing Blue-Chip Competitor

The latest addition to the artist roster of Hauser & Wirth, a mega-gallery with 10 locations and a bookstore spread across three continents, is the estate of François Morellet, whose experiments with abstraction are considered highlights in postwar European art. It is the third estate to join the gallery in recent months, after those of Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Gustav Metzger.

The move will see the Morellet estate jump from one blue-chip with a U.S. presence to another. Through the new Hauser & Wirth representation, the estate will leave Lévy Gorvy, which had worked with Morellet since 2017. (Kamel Mennour gallery, of Paris and London, will continue to work with the estate.)

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Morellet, who died in 2016 at the age of 90, created innovative sculptures and paintings that are reliant on industrial materials. Whereas painterly abstractions of the postwar era placed an emphasis on the artist’s hand and originality, Morellet strove for something different—his individual creativity could not be glimpsed in his works. And, as a cofounder of the collective Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, which was active during the ’60s in France, Morellet strove to understand the ways that artists were not alone in creating artworks—the viewer played a role, too.

François Morellet, 'Gesticulation n°1', 2009.

François Morellet, Gesticulation n°1, 2009.

Because he made use of repetition and the day’s newest technologies, Morellet is considered a forerunner to Minimalists of the ’60s. “Morellet has always occupied a very idiosyncratic position in the evolution of modern and contemporary art, not really fitting neatly into any single, specific movement of ‘ism,’” Marc Payot, president of Hauser & Wirth, told ARTnews. “A precursor to Minimalism and Conceptualism, he was among artists experimenting with materials like neon in the early 1960s, which was very radical for the time.”

Although scholars the world over now agree that Morellet made a significant contribution to Western modernism, his art was not often given major showcases in the U.S. before his death. Before New York’s Dia Art Foundation surveyed Morellet’s art in 2017, no other major institution in the country had done so since 1985, when the Brooklyn Museum staged a retrospective.

The first Morellet outing at Hauser & Wirth will take place in January 2021 in New York. Payot said that he is aware that Morellet’s oeuvre has been under-seen in the U.S., but the gallery’s hope is to generate greater recognition for the artist worldwide. “We do want to focus on raising greater awareness of his work and appreciation for it in the U.S.—among American institutions, with curators, scholars, collectors, the public–but our approach is always global,” he said. “I am convinced Morellet’s work will be very well received in Asia as well.”


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