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A New Acquisition Joins the Collection: Julie Green’s The Last Supper

By Michelle Moore, Public Relations Manager
Image courtesy of College Art Association.

In 2000, American artist Julie Green (1961-2021) conceived a monumental, open-ended project entitled The Last Supper. Green, who was a professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis, set out to paint the last meal requests of people on death row. Although often unfulfilled by justice officials, last meal requests are nevertheless recorded and are part of the public record of executions in 36 states.

Julie Green, 2005. Image by Clay Lohmann.
Julie Green, 2005. Image by Clay Lohmann.

Using cobalt blue mineral paint on second-hand ceramic plates, Green (they/them/their) intended to paint 50 plates a year, spending their winter months on The Last Supper and ending the series upon the abolition of capital punishment in the United States. At the time of the artist’s death in 2021, the project encompassed one thousand plates.

The Last Supper has exhibited throughout the nation for the past 20 years, including in states which account for a large proportion of executions, such as Texas. The plates of The Last Supper are displayed as a complete set, organized by the state in which an execution took place, thus providing a visual quantification by region. Viewers also may draw inferences about incarcerated individuals from the date and the nature of food requested, information that Green incorporated into the paintings (names of those incarcerated are never shown).

Before their death in late 2021, Green placed The Last Supper in a trust to develop a solution to conserve and exhibit the artwork in perpetuity.

The Last Supper Irrevocable Trust approached Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and its partner organization Art Bridges in 2022 to discuss a gift of the artwork, which was finalized in June of this year.

“Julie Green’s The Last Supper is a powerful addition to our collection here at Crystal Bridges,” said Alejo Benedetti, the museum’s curator of contemporary art. “This work is a fiercely moving reflection on an aspect of the American story that is often pushed to the margins. It’s Julie foregrounding humanity in a meaningful way around a tremendously complex topic. We look forward to sharing this work with our visitors, knowing that great artists can help guide us into some of our country’s most difficult discussions with stirring elegance and grace.”

The Last Supper, which was most recently exhibited in Bellevue, Washington, has been in storage for a year. The artwork will join the Crystal Bridges collection in late 2024 for a period of conservation and documentation prior to planning future exhibitions.

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