Press Release

Agnes Martin

Press release announcing the upcoming Agnes Martin retrospective at Tate Modern

Agnes Martin Friendship 1963

Agnes Martin
Friendship 1963
incised gold leaf and gesso on canvas
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Agnes Martin
3 June – 11 October 2015
Tate Modern, Level 3 West
Supported by The Henry Luce Foundation and Terra Foundation for American Art
Additional support from Artworkers Retirement Society, the Agnes Martin Exhibition Supporters Group, Tate Americas Foundation and Tate International Council
Open daily from 10.00 – 18.00 and until 22.00 on Friday and Saturday
For public information call +44 (0)20 7887 8888, visit, follow @tate

This summer Tate Modern presents the first comprehensive survey of the seminal artist Agnes Martin. Martin was renowned for her subtle, evocative canvases marked out in pencil grids and pale colour washes. The exhibition covers the full breadth of her practice, reasserting her position as a key figure in the traditionally male-dominated field of American abstraction.

This internationally touring show demonstrates Agnes Martin as one of the pre-eminent painters of the twentieth century and traces her career from early experiments to her final painting from 2004. Born in 1912 in Macklin, Saskatchewan, Canada, Martin established her career as an artist in New York, living in the Coenties Slip neighbourhood alongside fellow artists Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana and Lenore Tawney. The exhibition reveals Martin’s lesser-known early paintings and experimental works from this period including The Garden 1958. It charts her experiments in different media and formats with found objects and geometric shapes, before she began making her inimitable pencilled grids on large, square canvases which would become her hallmark. Tate Modern brings together seminal examples of these works from the 1960s such as Friendship 1963, a gold leaf covered canvas incised with Martin’s emblematic fine grid.

Martin left the New York art scene in 1967, just as her art was gaining considerable acclaim. In search of solitude and silence, she travelled across the US and Canada for almost two years before finally settling in New Mexico where she lived for the rest of her life. Georgia O’Keeffe had already famously moved to New Mexico by 1940 and other artists and writers such as DH Lawrence, Edward Hopper and Mark Rothko had all been drawn to visit the area.

Martin began making work again with On a Clear Day 1973, a portfolio of prints of differently proportioned grids and parallel lines. She continued to work in series of paintings, creating delicate, evocative works in monochrome or colour washes in combinations of pale blue, red and yellow. While often associated with Minimalists and an influential figure to those artists, Martin’s restrained style underpinned a deep conviction in the emotive and expressive power of art influenced by Asian belief systems including Taoism and Zen Buddhism as well as the natural surroundings of New Mexico. The exhibition also features a group of Martin’s final works brought together from private collections including Untitled #1 2003 which reintroduce the bold geometric forms she had experimented with in her early career.

Agnes Martin is co-curated at Tate Modern by Frances Morris, Director of Collection, International Art and Tiffany Bell, Artifex Press Editor, Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné, with Dr Lena Fritsch, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishing and is organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York where it will tour throughout 2015 and 2016.

Editor notes

Frances Morris

Frances Morris is Director of Collection, International Art at Tate, and was formerly Head of Displays at Tate Modern. She curated the retrospective exhibitions of Yayoi Kusama in 2012 and Louise Bourgeois in 2007. Frances is also a Director of the Fruitmarket Gallery Edinburgh, a board member of CIMAM and a member of the advisory committee of Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto.

Tiffany Bell
Tiffany Bell is Editor of the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné to be published digitally by Artifex Press, New York. She was formerly the director of the Dan Flavin Catalogue Raisonné project, which resulted in the publication of Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights, 1961-1996 (Dia and Yale University Press, 2004), and served as curator for several museum and gallery exhibitions of Flavin's lights. She has worked for many years as a freelance curator and art critic. 

Related Events

Agnes Martin: Gabriel

Friday 5 June 2015, 18.30 – 20.30 (£5)
Tate Modern presents Agnes Martin’s only completed and rarely screened film Gabriel 1976. Gabriel is a contemplative and fragmentary study of landscape, vision and perceptions of nature.

Talks and lectures

Painting With My Back to the World

Wednesday 10 June 2015, 18.30 – 20.00 (£10, concessions available)
This panel critically addresses some of the patterns and processes in Martin’s work, offering new insights into the relationship between creativity, perception and mental health. Speakers include Frances Morris, Susan Aldworth and Patricia Townsend. The event is chaired by Steven Connor.

Lifting the fog: Conservation of Agnes Martin’s Morning

Monday 6 July 2015, 18.30 – 19.30 (£13, concessions available)
In this talk Conservator, Rachel Barker presents the restoration process of Agnes Martin’s painting Morning 1965 and describes the technical and aesthetic characteristics of Martin’s work.   

Agnes Martin: Innocence the Hard Way

Wednesday 15 July 2015, 18.30 – 20.00 (£12, concessions available)
Agnes Martin’s biographer Nancy Princenthal discusses the artist’s formative experiences, her development, and the range of lively non-mainstream art communities in which she lived. 

Curator’s Tour: Agnes Martin

Monday 28 September 2015, 18.30 – 20.30 (£15, concessions available)
Exhibition curator Lena Fritsch takes you on a tour of the Agnes Martin exhibition. 

Performance and music
The music of Agnes Martin’s paintings
Monday 15 June 2015, 19.30 – 21.30 (£16, concessions available)
Join us for a classical music concert uniquely set in the Agnes Martin exhibition performed by the Ensemble Kandinsky, Switzerland.