J. Paul Getty Trust to posthumously honor Ellsworth Kelly, along with Yo-Yo Ma

The Getty Center in Brentwood.

The Getty Center in Brentwood.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Ellsworth Kelly, the renowned abstract artist who died in December at 92, will be posthumously honored by the J. Paul Getty Trust with its highest award, the J. Paul Getty Medal.

In a first for the Getty, the annual award ceremony will honor a second medal recipient. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma will also receive the Getty Medal at a dinner ceremony scheduled for Oct. 17 at the Getty Center in Brentwood.

The decision to give Kelly the medal was made before the artist’s death, said James Cuno, president and chief executive of the Getty Trust. He said that the artist was aware that he had been selected for the honor before he died.

"[Kelly] is one of our generation’s greatest artists,” said Cuno. “He stood for a kind of intelligence as an artist that we wanted to acknowledge.”

Cuno said the award for Ma was made in recognition of the cellist’s artistic excellence as well as his commitment through the Silkroad organization to the conservation of cultural heritage.


A cultural nonprofit that Ma founded in 1998, Silkroad promotes cultural exchange and education, and spotlights cultural heritages around the world.

The decision to award two medals this year was made to reflect the Getty’s wide cultural reach. “One person can’t represent the full breadth of the Getty,” said Cuno.

Among the roles that the Getty Trust plays, the most visible is the overseeing of the Getty Museum. The trust also oversees the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Foundation.

The medal recipients, who don’t receive a monetary award, are selected each year by the Getty’s board of trustees from a group of nominees selected by senior Getty staff.

The Getty first awarded the medal in 2013 to Harold M. Williams and Nancy Englander for their leadership and contributions in creating the Getty. Subsequent honorees include Lord Jacob Rothschild and architect Frank Gehry.