The art world mourns Sam Gilliam.

This African-American abstract painter, known for his colorful canvases left free from the frames on which they are usually attached, died Saturday at the age of 88, announced Monday two galleries having collaborated with him.

The artist, born in 1933 in the State of Mississippi and who was the first African-American to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, in 1972, died at his home in Washington of kidney failure, according to the

New York Times


“Sam Gilliam was one of the giants of modernism,” said Arne Glimcher, founder of Pace Gallery.

“Sam embodied a vital spirit of freedom, achieved with courage, ferocity, sensitivity and poetry,” added David Kordansky, of the gallery of the same name.

The turn of the “Drapes”

It was at the end of the 1960s that Sam Gilliam, who had already painted his colored forms on folded canvases before stretching them on their stretchers, produced some of his most emblematic works, the "Drapes", by completely ridding his canvases from their wooden supports to let them fall freely from the ceiling or the walls.

“These revolutionary works (…) have changed the history of art”, according to the gallery owners.

“Gilliam transformed the medium of painting and its relationship to the spatial and architectural context in which it is viewed.

“1968 was a year of revelation and determination”, for his part explained the artist, quoted by the press release.

“Something was floating in the air and it was partly in this spirit that I painted the 'Drapes'”.

Three of these canvases are currently exhibited at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, as part of the “La Couleur en fugue” exhibition, until August 29, 2022.


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