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Martin Puryear

June 22 – September 28, 2008
West Building, Main Floor, Galleries 72–82, Lobby D, Rotunda, and East Building Atrium

Installation view of Martin Puryear, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives


This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: 46 sculptures created by American artist Martin Puryear between 1976 and 2007 comprised this exhibition, the first retrospective of the artist's works in more than a decade. Included were works from the collection of the National Gallery of Art and loans from museums and private collections in the United States and Europe. In the East Building Atrium 6 sculptures were installed, including Ad Astra, the largest work in the exhibition. 39 works were shown in 6 West Building galleries and Lobby D. Ladder for Booker T. Washington, a 36-foot-tall wooden sculpture, was suspended between columns in the West Building Rotunda. This was the first time in which works in a single exhibition were installed in both the East and West Buildings.

An opening-day lecture was given by Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art at the National Gallery of Art. A closing lecture presented on the final day of the exhibition by John Elderfield, Museum of Modern Art, New York, ended with a surprise visit by Martin Puryear, who answered questions from the audience.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Elderfield, the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, selected the exhibition along with the artist. Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art at the National Gallery of Art, coordinated the exhibition in Washington.

Sponsor: The exhibition was sponsored by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art. Support also was provided by Glenstone. Additional support was provided by Lannan Foundation. The brochure was made possible by Dr. Darryl Atwell, David and Thelma Driskell, Larry and Bonnie Frazier, Susan L. Halper, Shawnya L. Harris, Reginald A. Hubbard II, Kera and Bennie F. Johnson, Blake T. Kimbrough and Michael M. Paese, and Dr. Robert and Jean Steele. The Martin Puryear Family Guide was made possible by Melvin Henderson-Rubio.

Attendance: 125,613

Catalog: Martin Puryear by John Elderfield et al. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2007.

Brochure: Martin Puryear, adapted from a text written by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Washington: National Gallery of Art.

Other Venues: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 4, 2007–January 25, 2009

Puryear, Martin
American, 1941 -
Martin Puryear: "How Things Fit Together"
Audio, Released: October 5, 2010, (61:38 minutes)
Martin Puryear: "Sculpture that Tries to Describe Itself to the World"
Audio, Released: September 28, 2010, (51:59 minutes)
Martin Puryear, Part 2: Defining the Object
Audio, Released: September 9, 2008, (6:53 minutes)
Martin Puryear, Part 1: Evolution of an Exhibition
Audio, Released: September 2, 2008, (6:58 minutes)
Martin Puryear Installation: Ladder for Booker T. Washington
Video, Released: June 5, 2008, (2:14 minutes)