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Hirshhorn Presents Sean Scully’s “Landline” Series for the First Time in the U.S.

On View June 8, 2017 – Oct. 1, 2017, Critically Acclaimed Paintings First Debuted at the 56th Venice Biennale

October 7, 2016

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will present the U.S. premiere of Sean Scully’s (b. 1945) acclaimed “Landline” series September 2018 - April 2019. This group of abstract paintings, inspired by the juxtaposition of Venetian canals against surrounding brick buildings, was first shown in 2015 at the Palazzo Falier’s exhibition “Land Sea,” a highlight of the 56th Venice Biennale. At the Hirshhorn, two dozen of the large-scale works will encircle the second floor, responding to the museum’s unique curved architecture and transforming the space into a vibrant continuum of color. Also on view will be a site-conditional installation of the Irish-born American artist’s iconic stacked Corten steel sculptures.

“Landline” debuts more than 20 years after the Hirshhorn opened Scully’s first mid-career retrospective, a pivotal exhibition that traced the artist’s transition from early hard-edge minimalism to his signature, more expressive style. The new “Landline” paintings (2013–2015) and their loose bands of color—sublime in their simplicity—offer U.S. audiences the chance to experience a seminal shift in the work of one of today’s most important abstract artists.

Scully is recognized as a leading artist of his generation. Known for combining the geometry of European concrete art with the ethereality of American abstraction, Scully’s thick, gestural brushstrokes over grids of stripes and squares evoke the energy and beauty of the natural world.

“Sean Scully continues to be one of the most influential painters working today,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “At the Hirshhorn, we are dedicated to examining and presenting the many different stages of an artist’s career, and in Sean’s case, we are honored to have the opportunity to build upon the narrative of his 1995 survey show. Throughout the course of his career, Sean has revolutionized abstract painting, and we look forward to showcasing this important body of work for the first time in the United States.”

“Scully has developed a singular style, rooted in the traditions of Abstract Expressionism, while simultaneously reflecting a deep consideration of the natural world,” said Stéphane Aquin, the Hirshhorn’s chief curator. “Inspired by his memories of Venice, the ‘Landline’ paintings demonstrate how the essential elements of light, movement and color can be pared down to their most fundamental forms, while still evoking the complexities of reality.”

The Hirshhorn will co-present Scully in conversation with critic and author Deborah Solomon Thursday, Oct. 27, 6:30 p.m., at the New York Public Library.

Scully lives and works in New York and Berlin. He recently became one of the only Western artists to have had a career-length retrospective exhibition in China (his 2014 exhibition of over 100 paintings traveled from Shanghai to Beijing), and last year, he was the subject of solo exhibitions in São Paulo, at the Pinacoteca do Estado; in Neuhaus, Austria, in the inaugural show at the new Museum Liaunig; in Venice, during the Biennale; in Dublin, where the National Gallery of Ireland exhibited five major paintings from the collection of 40 works held by the Tate in London, as well as his recent photographs; and in Cork, Ireland, at the Crawford Art Gallery. He is the recipient of the 2016 Harper’s Bazaar Art International Artist of the Year Award, has twice been shortlisted for the Turner Prize and his works are included in the permanent collections of nearly every major North American museum, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Art Institute of Chicago, Broad Art Foundation, High Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others.

About the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. With nearly 12,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new media works, its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all, 364 days a year. For more information, visit


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Installation view of “Sean Scully: Land Sea” at the Palazzo Falier, Venice, 2015. Photo by Claudio Abate.

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Large painting with multicolored stripes