1954 Summer sojourn in Løkken, Denmark, where he produces a series of large-format watercolours. Hans Scharoun’s plan to have Nay help decorate the Kassel Theater with wall paintings fails to materialize. Nay begins painting his Disk Pictures. He is in close contact with the linguist Georg Buddruss and the ethnologist Adolf Friedrich. First show at Cologne’s Der Spiegel gallery.
1955 Nay publishes the manifesto-like text On the Gestalt Value of Color (Vom Gestaltwert der Farbe), based on his theoretical remarks from his Hamburg lectures. He is awarded the Lichtwark Prize of the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg. Retrospectives at Hamburg’s Kunstverein and the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover. Participates in documenta I in Kassel and the Biennale in São Paulo. First exhibition in the United States at the Kleemann Galleries, New York.
1956 One-man exhibition in the German Pavillion at the Venice Biennale. For the new building of the Chemical Institute at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau Nay paints a wall painting more than six meters wide (The Freiburg Picture). Named a member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. Awarded the Grand Prize for painting by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Participates in the exhibition Hundred Years of German Painting at the Tate Gallery, London.
1957 A February sojourn in Crans-sur-Sierre, where he paints more watercolours. In Paris, through the agency of the photographer Herbert List, Nay rents for two months the atelier of the photographer Florence Henri, and at Georges Visat’s prints a suite of five colour aquatints, which are then published by Michael Hertz. With the painting With Red and Black Dots, among others, participates in the exhibition German Art of the Twentieth Century at the Museum of Modern Art, New York,.
1958 Nay is represented in the exhibition 50 Ans d’Art Moderne, part of the Brussels world’s fair, Expo 58. Simultaneously, the Brussels gallery Les Contemporains presents him in a solo exhibition, from which the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique purchase the painting Blue and Ruby-Red.
1959 Participates in documenta II and the São Paulo Biennale. A second solo show at the Kleemann Galleries, for which the artist visits New York for the first time. Trip to Mykonos.