Remembering AAR Trustee Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Artist Cy Twombly, as the 2006 recipient of the AAR’s McKim Medal, which he himself had earlier designed

Rome resident and beloved American Academy Trustee artist Cy Twombly died 5 July 2011 aged 83. Many obituaries worldwide have appeared, including that of Randy Kennedy inThe New York Times (in its full version here). Remembers AAR President Adele Chatfield-Taylor (FAAR’84):

“Cy has been involved in the American Academy in many ways over the years. In the 1950s when he moved to Rome, he was part of a wave of artists who came through after the war, albeit the iconoclast, but the Academy saw all the comings and goings in those days. In the 1990s, we had an absolutely perfect exhibition in our galleries, of a small number of Twombly sculptures, about eight, as I recall, curated by Martha Boyden, our arts liaison at the time. They were so beautifully placed, and scaled, and ghostly white, that the space seemed to have been made for the show. They still haunt the space. I will never forget this show.”

Poster for AAR show Cy Twombly: 8 Sculptures (28 September-15 November 1998)

The AAR exhibition in question was “Cy Twombly: 8 Sculptures”, which ran at the Academy 28 September—15 November 1998. Giorgio Agamben in the exhibition brochure found in Twombly’s art “a gesture where it is as if every ascension has been inverted and broken, almost on the threshold between doing and not-doing…it is this point of decreation where the artist…no longer creates but decreates.”

Adele Chatfield-Taylor continues: “More recently, in 2005, Cy designed the McKim medal for presentation at our annual McKim Medal Gala, and even more recently, he became a Trustee of the Academy. He loved our studios and felt it would be a wonderful thing to be able to work in one of them one of these days…what a loss.”

Cy Twombley’s 2005 sketch for the AAR’s McKim Medal

The McKim Medal, named for Academy founder Charles Follen McKim, has henceforth been awarded to an individual whose work and life exemplify creative and intellectual exchange across the arts, scholarship, language, and culture. The evening is supported by corporations and individuals committed to international exchange, especially between Italy and the United States; the proceeds from the event  benefit Italian scholars and artists taking up Affiliated Fellowships at the Academy. On the second occasion of this Gala—29 May 2006—Twombly found himself honored as McKim Laureate.

The Trustees of the American Academy in Rome with the whole AAR community grieve the loss of Cy Twombly, one of the greatest of American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Cy Twombly as 2006 McKim Medal Laureate; at right, AAR President Adele Chatfield-Taylor

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