On Calder's Birthday
In his 1966 autobiography, Calder wrote, “I always thought I was born—at least my mother always told me so—on August 22, 1898. But my grandfather Milne’s birthday was on August 23, so there might have been a little confusion. In 1942, when I wrote the Philadelphia City Hall for a birth certificate, I sent them a dollar and they told me I was born on the twenty-second of July, 1898. So I sent them another dollar and told them, ‘Look again.’ They corroborated the first statement.”
Because of this lasting confusion, we did our own research. When we reviewed the hand-written Birth Register, the official ledger of the Board of Health, we found the same July date. Then we dug further to the Return of Births, the original document upon which the ledger is based. George W. Stewart, the country doctor who attended Calder's birth in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, listed Calder as his sole delivery. After the prompt, “Return of Births, in the City of Philadelphia, under my care for the month of,” he initially wrote “September,” only to cross it out and write “July.” Dr. Stewart's uncertainty continues to this day.
When Calder's father, mother, and sister heard that his birth certificate stated 22 July 1898, they thought that city officials had made a mistake. As for Calder, he celebrated both birthdays, as do we.
Calder in the Alps
Hauser & Wirth will inaugurate an exhibition of outdoor monumental sculptures by Calder in Gstaad, on view from 14 July–30 September 2016, marking the first time this remarkable body of work has been exhibited in Switzerland.
Situated against the town’s dramatic landscape, Calder in the Alps comprises a standing mobile and five stabiles from the 1960s and 1970s, which will be installed in public locations that include the Lauenensee, Kirche Saanen, UBS promenade, and Le Grand Bellevue hotel.
Calder concentrated his efforts on making outdoor sculptures on a monumental scale during the later part of his career, turning his attention to major commissions for cities, museums, and universities around the world. A paradigm shift in the history of twentieth-century sculpture, his large-scale works in industrial materials reveal the artist’s lifelong fascination with energy and space, creating a new relationship between object and environment.
Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower remarks, “My grandfather reset the traditional relationship between volume and void with his monumental sculptures. Installed against the mountainous backdrop of Gstaad, these works will surely surprise viewers as they harmonize in unpredictable ways with their surroundings.”
For more information about Calder in the Alps, visit Hauser & Wirth’s website.
SFMoMA inaugurates Alexander Calder: Motion Lab
On 14 May, after having been closed in order to undergo a massive expansion, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) will reopen to the public for the first time in three years. Designed by internationally renowned architecture firm Snøhetta, the building will accommodate an unprecedented loan to the museum, by the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, of 260 works of art for the next ninety-nine years. One of the greatest private American collections of modern and contemporary art, it includes over forty works by Alexander Calder—more than by any other artist.
Among the inaugural exhibitions at the new SFMoMA will be Alexander Calder: Motion Lab, the first in a series of presentations to focus solely on the artist as part of a permanent rotating Calder gallery. Featuring eleven works from the Fisher collection, the show will include Quattro Pendulati, a rare wall sculpture from 1943 that has not been on public view in thirty-five years. Other highlights are the delicate wire sculpture Aquarium (1929), with an ingenious mechanism that allows its fish to “swim,” and Eighteen Numbered Black (1953), an expansive, arboreal hanging mobile whose elements Calder numbered in order to provide guidance for correct assembly.
Three of Calder’s monumental sculptures from the 1960s—two stabiles and one standing mobile—will grace terraces adjacent to the gallery. One of these, Trois disques (intermediate maquette, 1967), is the 1:5-scale model for the immense public sculpture Calder made for the International Nickel Company on the occasion of the 1967 World Expo in Montreal. Also premiering in the museum’s atrium is Untitled (1963), a grand mobile painted all in white, originally commissioned by the Connecticut Bank & Trust Company.
This designated gallery continues SFMoMA’s longstanding dedication to Calder’s work. In addition to the Fisher loan, the museum has several fine examples of the artist’s work in its own collection, and it was the second and final host venue to the seminal 1998 Calder retrospective organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Alexander Calder: Motion Lab will be on view through 10 September 2017.
View the museum's website here.
On 50th Anniversary, Calder Piece presented in New York City
In 1963, the composer Earle Brown approached Calder with an idea: Brown would orchestrate a piece of music for a percussion quartet that would be literally conducted by a mobile, for a performance commissioned by Diego Masson, director of the Théâtre de l’Atelier in Paris, and the son of Calder’s lifelong friend, the artist André Masson. Calder’s interest was piqued, and three years later he delivered his maestro, Chef d’orchestre (1966), to Brown.
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark premiere of Earle Brown’s Calder Piece (1963–66), and on a brisk evening in January, the Calder Foundation was privileged to present it once again, at the Friends Seminary in New York. Curated by Calder’s great-grandson Gryphon Rue, and performed by the renowned Talujon Percussion Quartet, Chef d’orchestre once again took center stage, thanks to the generous loan of the sculpture by its owners, a private collection. As the mobile’s red, gong-like elements hovered in space, supported by the delicate spindle of its base, the percussionists took their places and played. Intermittently, they abandoned their drums, cymbals, and xylophones to take their mallets to the mobile, working it collectively as another instrument. Tension and excitement in the room was palpable as the musicians struck the mobile, whose sound boomeranged from airy gossamer to resounding boom, depending on how and where it was impacted.
This unprecedented performance is now available to watch below. With a thoughtful introduction by Rue, who provides an historical grounding, along with commentary from Thomas Fichter, director of the Earle Brown Music Foundation, the film includes the complete and uninterrupted, 23-minute performance of Calder Piece.
Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss at Fondation Beyeler
From 29 May–4 September 2016, Fondation Beyeler will present a comprehensive exhibition devoted to Calder and the Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, who worked as partners since 1979 under the name Fischli/Weiss.
The seminal exhibition focuses on the fleeting, precarious, and exhilarating moment of fragile equilibrium as expressed through the works of Calder and Fischli/Weiss in the early- and late-twentieth century, respectively. Featuring works by Calder in an open and space-transcending dialogue with works by Fischli/Weiss, the show will chart significant historical milestones in Calder’s oeuvre, from Cirque Calder in the 1920s to his shift to abstraction and invention of the mobile in the early 1930s, on to his virtuosic treatment of the formal possibilities that arose as a result. The works of Fischli/Weiss perform as counterpoints in this narrative, determining the exhibition’s rhythm and expanding upon the concept of equilibrium.
Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss is curated by Theodora Vischer, Senior Curator at the Fondation Beyeler, and is developed in close cooperation with the Calder Foundation and Peter Fischli.
Alexander S. C. Rower in conversation with Achim Borchardt-Hume
On 12 February 2016, Tate Modern hosted a public conversation between Alexander S. C. Rower, President, Calder Foundation, and Achim Borchardt-Hume, Director of Exhibitions, Tate Modern, on the subject of the landmark exhibition Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture.
You can watch their conversation here:
Read Jed Perl's essay, "In the Sculptor's Studio: Calder & Stella," in the New York Review of Books!
Read the full essay here.
The Calder Prize 2005-2015
The Calder Foundation is pleased to announce the opening of The Calder Prize 2005–2015 at Pace London, which explores Calder’s enduring impact on contemporary art. On view from 4 February–5 March 2016, the show will juxtapose works by Calder with those by our Calder Prize laureates to date: Tara Donovan (2005), Žilvinas Kempinas (2007), Tomás Saraceno (2009), Rachel Harrison (2011), Darren Bader (2013), and Haroon Mirza (2015). A catalogue for the exhibition is forthcoming.