Installation view of François Morellet’s works at Galerie Hervé Bize’s booth at Frieze New York, 2016. Photo by Adam Reich for Artsy.
François Morellet died on Wednesday, just a few days after his 90th birthday. Parisian gallerist Kamel Mennour confirmed the French artist’s passing to Le Monde. Morellet is known primarily as a major figure of geometric abstraction and Concrete Art, working across mediums including painting, sculpture, and light-based art. Though he began working in the 1950s, the artist has explained that he had to wait decades before his neon works became in-demand enough to sell. Morellet was a central player in the founding of the significant Paris collective of the 1960s Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV).
Some 60 years after his practice began, Morellet received a major retrospective at the Center Pompidou in Paris, cementing his place in the country as one of the key artists of his generation.
Despite being a serious practitioner with a long career that included over 130 solo exhibitions, Morellet often imbued his work with levity and wit—even prompting viewer participation at times. His patterns, grids, and the mathematical formulas he employed to create them are actually underlied by a certain frivolity and playfulness. “It seems to me that humour, irony, derision and frivolity are the necessary spice to make squares, systems and all the rest of it digestible,” he once said in an interview.
Morellet’s work is discussed in the same breath as artists including Sol LeWitt and Dan Flavin, and his works reside in the collections of numerous major museums, from the Tate Modern to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Far from being relegated to the history books, Morellet continued to attract the eyes of art lovers, scholars, collectors, and dealers right up until his death. Galerie Hervé Bize showed his eye-catching work at Frieze New York last week, while three other galleries, Annely Juda Fine Art and The Mayor Gallery in London and Dan Galeria in São Paulo, are all currently presenting shows of the artist.