James Turrell Donates Custom-Made Skyspace To Pittsburgh Museum The Mattress Factory

James Turrell, Unseen Blue (2002), a temporary Skyspace installation at the Mattress Factory. Photo taken at sunrise. COURTESY THE MATTRESS FACTORY

James Turrell’s Unseen Blue (2002) seen at sunrise, as installe at the Mattress Factory.


The Mattress Factory, a contemporary-art museum in Pittsburgh, has announced that James Turrell has donated one of his “Skyspace” works to the museum’s permanent collection. Estimated at $1 million, the gift is the largest in the museum’s history.

“He called us last March or April,” museum codirector and president Barbara Luderowski said over the phone. “It was his idea. [The Mattress Factory] is coming up on its 40th anniversary in 2017, and we’ve been friends for a long time. I think [codirector Michael Olijnyk] and I have been to both of his weddings.”

Since 1974, Turrell has created 86 Skyspaces for private and public venues in 29 countries on three continents, including a temporary Skyspace installed at the Mattress Factory in 2002 for the museum’s 25th anniversary. A longtime supporter of the institution, which was one of the first museums to permanently install his work, the Mattress Factory has shown 17 works by the artist between 1983 and 2002, with three currently on permanent view.

Since this Skyspace will be custom-designed for the museum, Turrell asked Luderowski whether she would prefer a round, oval, or square aperture, and after much deliberation, she chose oval.

“It wasn’t so much about what I wanted, but about working collaboratively on what would be best for the space,” Luderowski said.

When asked about a tentative completion date, Luderowski admitted she didn’t know. The Mattress Factory will have to raise a capital campaign to install the work, and the amount needed will determine when the project will be finished.

“After meeting with [Turrell], we sat down with engineers from Carnegie Mellon University and started to work out what we would need for this installation, and how much it would cost.” She laughed, promising, “It will be a lot.”

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