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Sam Francis reunion at the Norton Simon Museum

November 24, 2009 |  4:30 pm

Basel Mural “Basel Mural I,” an abstract celebration of light, color and space painted by Sam Francis, has long been a highlight of the Norton Simon Museum’s contemporary art collection.

Stretching nearly 13 feet high and 20 feet wide, the free-spirited, dripped and splashed canvas commands a full wall at the Pasadena institution. But it’s only one of three panels made in 1956-58 for a stairwell at the Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland.

The triptych will never again be whole. But two substantial sections of a panel damaged more than 40 years ago and salvaged by the artist have been reunited with the Simon’s painting. A gift of the Sam Francis Foundation, they will go on view Wednesday on a wall adjacent to “Basel Mural I.”

“That’s where they belong,” said Donna Stein, a foundation board member who has played a leading role in placing artworks from the artist’s estate in museums.

To read the full Wednesday Calendar story about the painting's history and find out what happened to the rest of the mural, click here.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photo: Curator Leah Lehmbeck oversees an installation reuniting "Basel Mural I" with two fragments of a damaged companion panel at the Norton Simon Museum. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times