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Ultra Violet Exhibit Opening at Magenta Gallery

By Patricia Miller

Join us at Magenta Gallery for the opening of our new Ultra Violet exhibit. Ultra Violet is the 2018 color of the year.

For centuries, the color purple has been associated with greatness, immense power, big personalities, and artistic genius. Cleopatra and Julius Caesar swathed their palaces and their bodies with it. Impressionists like Claude Monet became so obsessed with the color they were accused by critics of contracting “violetomania.” Then, of course, pop god Prince branded his funky, supremely iconoclastic music with deep, dewy violet—a mystical force he dubbed “purple rain.”

It is these lofty qualities that color authority Pantone referenced when announcing its 2018 color of the year: ultra violet. The company lauded the hue’s ability to communicate “originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future” in a press release, noting purple’s longstanding connection to “unconventionality” and “artistic brilliance.”

Indeed, nowhere is the creative and cultural influence of purple more clear than in a tour through the history of art, from ancient Roman frescoes to pop art.

It begins in the first millennium BC when humans developed a pigment known as purpura, or Tyrian purple. Sourced from a tiny shellfish called murex, it was not easy to come by. It took more than 250,000 of the critters to produce half an ounce of the color—just enough to dye a single toga.

As with most rare goods, purpura became expensive and valuable. Ancient Rome’s rich and famous, led by Julius Caesar, fell for the color. Caesar’s interest was stoked after a visit to Cleopatra’s lavish Egyptian palace, decorated with purple porphyry stone and sporting couches upholstered in purple fabric. Upon his return to Rome, Caesar declared that only he could wear togas dyed completely violet. The law became harsher under a later emperor, Nero. If someone disobeyed, he could be punished by death.

Purple became more accessible after teenage chemist William Henry Perkin accidently discovered a synthetic recipe for the pigment in 1856. He had begun experimenting with coal tar to combat malaria when he noticed a pretty residue lining his instruments. Perkin called it “mauve,” and the shade quickly became the century’s “it” color for clothing, furniture, and even dog collars.

Perhaps the most literal connection between art history and Pantone’s choice of ultra violet, however, came with the advent of pop art in the 1960s. Andy Warhol’s screen-printed canvases sported the neon hue. However, his friend and Factory superstar Isabelle Collin Dufresne literally became the shade. By 1967, she had changed her name to Ultra Violet and wore purple hair, purple eye shadow, and purple lipstick wherever she went. She joined a long line of creatives who not only harnessed the shape-shifting meaning of purple—from luxurious to radical to transcendent—but also added their own twist to the seductive hue.

Enjoy the purple on Thursday, March 8, 5–7pm, at Magenta Gallery, Zacateros 26.


Art Opening

Ultra Violet 2018

Thu, Mar 8, 5–7pm

Magenta Gallery

Zacateros 26

152 1694





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