When architect Peter Zellner first unveiled his design for the new Matthew Marks Gallery in West Hollywood, it was met with enthusiasm from the planning department and the mayor. But the city has strict design guidelines on the books: New buildings must have windows and architectural detail. The gallery was, well, an “ice cube,” says Zellner, and Marks was in uncharted territory, choosing to make his West Coast debut in the scruffy neighborhood between La Brea and Fairfax Avenues rather than the established art scene in Culver City.
But Zellner was able to skirt the guidelines with the addition of Ellsworth Kelly’s 40-foot-long, 5,000-pound, rectangular, black metal minimalist sculpture to the gallery’s facade; now the entire building is considered a treasured piece of public art. “When the Kelly went on, it really felt like it was complete,” said Zellner, founder of the Los Angeles–based firm ZELLNERPLUS. “Last week the building seemed naked to me.” Far from feeling protective of his ego or output, the architect describes his afternoon discussing the design with Kelly, “the last standing modern master in the United States,” as “one of the best moments of my life.” Matthew Marks represents Kelly, 88, and he asked the artist for a contribution to his new outpost.