Sol LeWitt. Wall Drawings from 1968 to 2007

ExhibitionsSol LeWitt. Wall Drawings from 1968 to 2007

Until 12 August 2013

Locations : Galerie 2
Category : Exhibitions
Public : All ages

The Centre Pompidou-Metz presents an exceptional retrospective exhibition of the American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007).

The Centre Pompidou-Metz is organizing a major project around the American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007). In the 13,000 square feet of Galerie 2, the Centre Pompidou-Metz is hosting a retrospective of Sol LeWitt's wall drawings on a scale never seen before in Europe. The selected thirty-three wall drawings, the largest group ever exhibited in Europe, span the artist's career from its beginnings to his final works.

Chosen from the 1,200 wall drawings which LeWitt created between 1968 and 2007, they reflect both the extraordinary consistency of his systematic explorations - with rigorous sets and combinations of geometric elements - and the remarkable diversity of his practice, both in the evolution of forms from simple geometric figures to what the artist called "complex" or "continuous" forms, and of the materials used (from pencil and crayon to ink washes, acrylic paint and graphite).

Through a remarkable partnership with local schools of art and architecture, the execution of these wall drawings at the Centre Pompidou-Metz fully conveys the spirit of collaboration and generosity advocated by the artist.

In partnership with the Centre Pompidou-Metz, and as a chromatic counterpart to this retrospective of wall drawings in black and white, M-Museum in Leuven (Belgium) shown, until 14 October 2012 twenty wall drawings in color.

In 2013, the Centre Pompidou-Metz  show Sol LeWitt as a collector. An artist and his artists. This second exhibition reflect LeWitt's extraordinary career not only as a prolific artist but also as an insatiable collector.

Béatrice Gross, independent curator and art critic, New York. 

The practice of wall drawing

Reminiscent of the fresco tradition of the Italian Renaissance, from the late 1960s, Sol LeWitt's wall drawings marked a decisive development in the history of contemporary drawing in particular, and of art in general. Expressing thought processes which the artist conceived beforehand, the wall drawings are executed directly onto the walls on the scale of the exhibition venue. These wall drawings, executed on-site, exist for the duration of the exhibition; they are then destroyed, giving the work in its physical form an ephemeral quality. Its content (or concept) remains however identical from one exhibition to the next.

LeWitt conceived the drawings to be executed by people other than himself. Professional assistants trained by the LeWitt studio, and drafters new to the process, are brought in to precisely follow LeWitt's instructions and diagrams. As the artist stated back in 1967, “In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work (…) and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.” (Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, in Artforum, vol. 5, no. 10, June 1967, pp. 79-83). Like musicians performing a musical score, the draftsmen and women interpret, each time slightly differently and in their own way, the geometric formulae set out by LeWitt.

LeWitt's wall drawings are based on:

  • a basic visual vocabulary of elementary geometric forms - straight, not straight, and broken lines, squares, arcs, circles, grids, etc. - which expanded towards more irregular, complex forms such as curves, loops and isometric figures;
  • a range of diverse techniques using pencil, crayon, India ink, acrylic paint and graphite.
The choice of black and white

The Centre Pompidou-Metz has chosen to present thirty-three wall drawings by Sol LeWitt exclusively in black and white. This decision to show only black and white wall drawings also underlines the striking visual impact of LeWitt’s work. Depending on the materials and techniques used, the powerful contrast between black and white, or the more subtle contrast of various shades of gray, stresses the structure and the optical effects that bring the works to life, from the subtle vibration of pencil lines to the sustained cadence of flat areas of black and white in acrylic, through soft variations of ink washes.

An exhibition in partnership with art schools in north-east France

The execution of the wall drawings at the Centre Pompidou-Metz is an exceptional opportunity for young artists and students in north-east France to work alongside professional draftsmen from the LeWitt studio.

The execution of the wall drawings has involved:

  • 65 students from four schools: École Supérieure d'Art de Lorraine, Metz-Epinal, ENS Architecture de Nancy, École Nationale Supérieure d'Art de Nancy, ESAD de Reims/École Supérieure d'Art et de Design;
  • 13 young artists;
  • 7 professional assistants.

For each wall drawing, a team is appointed around a professional assistant who supports and guides those new to the process. The professional supervises each team throughout the execution of the drawing and, where the degree of difficulty of the piece allows, endeavors to let them work autonomously. The students have two types of responsibility: preparation of the tools and the actual execution of the drawings to the artist's instructions.


In conjunction with the exhibition, the Centre Pompidou-Metz is publishing a 480-page catalog, with editions in French and in English. This comprehensive publication aims to become a new reference work on Sol LeWitt, as most monographic books about the artist are now out-of-print.

The catalog will be published in September 2012.

Sol LeWitt
Catalog directed by Béatrice Gross
Published by Centre Pompidou-Metz
In partnership with M-Museum, Leuven (Belgium)
Published in September 2012
480 pages, bound, €49.90

French: ISBN 978-2-35983-017-0
English: ISBN 978-2-35983-018-7

An exhibition devised in close collaboration with the LeWitt Collection
Sol LeWitt. Wall Drawings 1968-2007 in Galerie 2 of the Centre Pompidou-Metz has been conceived and developed in close collaboration with the LeWitt Collection (Chester, Connecticut).

The work and career of Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) was born in Hartford, Connecticut (United States). He studied fine arts at Syracuse University (New York State), then at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (now School of Visual Arts) in New York City. He worked as a graphic designer at the architectural practice of I.M. Pei, and as a night receptionist at the Museum of Modern Art, where his co-workers included artists Robert Ryman, Dan Flavin and Robert Mangold, and the critic Lucy R. Lippard. LeWitt was first associated with American Minimal art from which he would soon distance himself. LeWitt defined the principles of his practice in his influential Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, published in 1967 in Artforum, along with another seminal text Sentences on Conceptual Art, published in 1969 in Arts Magazine.

While the wall drawings, which he started in 1968 at the age of 40, constitute LeWitt’s most emblematic practice, his oeuvre also includes three-dimensional works (which he referred to as "structures"), innumerable drawings on paper, photographic series and artist's books. The different media which the artist explored are also used as tools to work out closely-related thought processes.

LeWitt’s first solo show was held at the John Daniels Gallery in New York City in 1965. He would go on to show his work in galleries, museums, and at events worldwide.

Text on Wall Drawing by Sol Lewitt

The artists conceives and plans the wall drawing. It is realized by draftsmen, (the artist can act as his own draftsman.) The plan (written, spoken or a drawing) is interpreted by the draftsman.
There are decisions which the draftsman makes, within the plan, as part of the plan. Each individual being unique, given the same instructions would carry them out differently. He would understand them differently.
The artist must allow various interpretations of his plan. The draftsman perceives the artist’s plan, then reorders it to his own experience and understanding.
The draftsman’s contributions are unforeseen by the artist, even if he, the artist, is the draftsman. Even if the same draftsman followed the same plan twice, there would be two different works of art. No one can do the same thing twice.
The artist and the draftsman become collaborators in making the art.
Each person draws a line differently and each person understands words differently. Neither lines nor words are ideas, they are the means by which ideas are conveyed.
The wall drawing is the artist’s art, as long as the plan is not violated. If it is, then the draftsman becomes the artist and the drawing would be his work of art. But art that is a parody of the original concept.
The draftsman may make errors in following the plan without compromising the plan. All wall drawings contain errors, they are part of the work.
The plan exists as an idea but needs to be put into its optimum form. Ideas of wall drawings alone are contradictions of the idea of wall drawings.
The explicit plan should accompany the finished wall drawing. They are of equal importance.
First published under the title, Doing Wall Drawings in Art Now, vol. 3, no 2, New York, June 1971, n. p.
© LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut

Sol LeWitt. Wall Drawings from 1968 to 2007, an exhibition as part of MONO, a cross-border event

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This summer, 15 cultural institutions in the Saar and Lorraine regions and in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg are organising an original approach to modern and contemporary art with the MONO event. From 1st June to 2nd Spetember 2012, 20 monographs by modern and contemporary artists will be presented across the wider region.
MONO is the fruit of cooperation between fifteen locations with their own programming and personality. Combining thier knowledge and thier experience, they are creating a new dimension devoted to modern and contemporary art.
2007 saw a decisive first step being taken with the "Luxembourg European Capital of Culture" project. Modern and contemporary art institutions benefit from thier exceptional location at the crossroads of major European North-South and East-West routes to consolidate the dynamism and the reality of their cultural network.
This has led to 20 artist monographs. Each institution will provide its own distinct way of presenting this type of exhibition to the public, thereby providing a mutually complementary network.
Beyond the works themselves, the public is also invited to explore the exhibition locations. The aim of the MONO event is for people to (re)discover some exceptional places offering up their true cultural treasures across the wider region. A MONO Passport has been set up to make the whole process much easier, granting discounted entrance to the exhibitions and free usage of a network of shuttle buses connecting the various exhibition locations every Saturday.


For the entire summer, shuttles will run every Saturday, departing from Metz, Luxembourg and Saarbrücken. Each route will vary to enable the public to view as many exhibitions as possible over the course of the event.
A mediator will accompany each shuttle to provide visitors with commentaries during thier journeys (to be given in the language of the city of departure).
The shuttles are free of charge, but places should be booked over +800 57001057 or via e-mail at
Some routes will offer free guided tours of the cities hosting the event.
Participants will also benefit from a guided tour of each exhibition they visite over the course of the day (MONO entry fee for paid exhibitions).


Arts Flanders, partner of MONO

In 2012, Belgium is hosting five major exhibitions of contemporary art in its Flemish provinces.
Visual Arts Flanders 2012 presents Beaufort04 (Belgian coast), TRACK (Ghent), Middelheim (Antwerp), Manifesta 9 (Genk) and Newtopia (Mechelen). The geographic proximity of these five locations and the common focus on contemporary art gives rise to an international platform that brings these attractive events together into a single hub.
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