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Alexander Calder

Photo: Herbert Matter © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Photo: Herbert Matter © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Alexander Calder was born in 1898, the second child of artist parents—his father was a sculptor and his mother a painter. In his mid-twenties, Calder moved to New York City, where he studied at the Art Students League and worked at the ‘National Police Gazette,’ illustrating sporting events and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Shortly after his move to Paris in 1926, Calder created his ‘Cirque Calder’ (1926–31), a complex and unique body of art. It wasn’t long before his performances of the ‘Cirque’ captured the attention of the Parisian avant-garde.


In 1931, a significant turning point in Calder’s artistic career occurred when he created his first kinetic nonobjective sculpture and gave form to an entirely new type of art. Some of the earliest of these objects moved by motors and were dubbed ‘mobiles’ by Marcel Duchamp—in French, mobile refers to both ‘motion’ and ‘motive.’ Calder soon abandoned the mechanical aspects of these works and developed suspended mobiles that would undulate on their own with the air’s currents. In response to Duchamp, Jean Arp named Calder’s stationary objects ‘stabiles’ as a means of differentiating them.

Calder returned to live in the United States with his wife, Louisa, in 1933, purchasing a dilapidated farmhouse in the rural town of Roxbury, Connecticut. It was there that he made his first sculptures for the outdoors, installing large-scale standing mobiles among the rolling hills of his property. In 1943, James Johnson Sweeney and Duchamp organized a major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which catapulted Calder to the forefront of the New York art world and cemented his status as one of the premier American contemporary artists.

In 1953, Calder and Louisa moved back to France, ultimately settling in the small town of Saché in the Indre-et-Loire. Calder shifted his focus to large-scale commissioned works, which would dominate his practice in the last decades of his life. These included such works as ‘Spirale’ (1958) for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and ‘Flamingo’ (1973) for Chicago’s Federal Center Plaza. Calder died at the age of seventy-eight in 1976, a few weeks after his major retrospective, ‘Calder’s Universe,’ opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Biography

Born Lawnton PA, 1898

Education

The Art Students League of New York 1923 – 1925
Stevens Institute of Technology 1915 – 1919

Died New York NY, 1976

Solo Exhibitions

2021 MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Alexander Calder. Modern from the Start', New York NY

2019 Hauser & Wirth, 'Calder', St. Moritz, Switzerland
Centro Botín, 'Calder Stories', Santander, Spain

2018 Hauser & Wirth, 'Calder: Nonspace', Los Angeles CA
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 'Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor', Montreal, Canada (Travelling Exhibition)
Fundación Proa, 'Alexander Calder: Theater of Encounters', Buenos Aires, Argentina
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 'Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky', Bruton, UK

2017 Musée Soulages, 'Calder: Forgeron des géantes libellules', Rodez, France
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder: Hypermobility', New York NY

2016 Hauser & Wirth, 'Alexander Calder: Calder in the Alps', Gstaad, Switzerland

2015 Tate Modern, 'Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture', London, UK
Pushkin Museum, 'Alexander Calder: Retrospective', Moscow, Russia
Museo Jumex, 'Calder: Discipline of the Dance', Mexico City, Mexico

2014 Rijksmuseum, 'Alexander Calder at the Rijksmuseum', Amsterdam, Netherlands

2013 Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 'Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic', Los Angeles CA
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein–Westfalen, 'Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion', Dusseldorf, Germany
Leeum – Samsung Museum of Art, 'Calder', Seoul, South Korea

2012 Gemeentemuseum, 'Alexander Calder: De grote ontdekking', The Hague, Netherlands

2011 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 'Calder's Portraits: A New Language', Washington DC

2009 Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 'Calder: Sculptor of Air', Rome, Italy
Seattle Art Museum, 'Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act', Seattle WA

2008 Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
Norton Museum of Art, 'Calder Jewelry', West Palm Beach FL (Travelling Exhibition)
Château de Tours, 'Alexandre Calder en Touraine', Tours, France

2006 Pinacoteca do Estato de São Paulo, 'Calder no Brasil', Sao Paulo, Brazil (Travelling Exhibition)

2005 Menil Collection, 'The Surreal Calder', Houston TX (Travelling Exhibition)

2003 Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, 'Calder: Gravedad y la Gracia', Bilbao, Spain (Travelling Exhibition)

2001 Storm King Art Center, 'Grand Intuitions: Calder’s Monumental Sculpture', Mountainville NY

2000 Iwaki City Art Museum, 'Alexander Calder: Motion and Color', Iwaki, Japan (Travelling Exhibition)
Wadsworth Atheneum, 'Calder in Connecticut', Hartford CT

1998 National Gallery of Art, 'Alexander Calder: 1898-1976', Washington DC

1997 Fundacío Joan Miró, 'Calder', Barcelona, Spain
San Jose Museum of Art, 'Flying Colors: The Innovation and Artistry of Alexander Calder', San Jose CA

1995 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 'Alexander Calder: Retrospective', Humlebaek, Denmark (Travelling Exhibition)

1993 Musée Picasso, Château Grimaldi, 'Calder: Mobiles, stabiles, gouaches, bijoux…', Antibes, France

1991 Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Celebrating Calder', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)

1989 Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 'Calder Intime', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)

1986 Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, 'Alexander Calder: An American Invention', Lincoln NE

1983 Palazzo a Vela, 'Calder: Mostra retrospettiva', Turin, Italy

1976 Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder's Universe', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)

1975 Haus der Kunst, 'Calder', Munich, Germany (Travelling Exhibition)

1974 Museum of Contemporary Art, 'Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, Work from 1925-1974', Chicago IL

1973 Galerie Maeght, 'Alexander Calder: Retrospektive', Zurich, Switzerland

1972 Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder's Circus', New York NY

1969 MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'A Salute to Alexander Calder', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
Fondation Maeght, 'Calder', Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France (Travelling Exhibition)

1967 MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Calder: 19 Gifts from the Artist', New York NY

1964 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 'Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)

1962 Tate Gallery / Arts Council of Great Britain, 'Alexander Calder: Sculpture–Mobiles', London, UK

1959 Stedelijk Museum, 'Alexander Calder, Stabilen, Mobilen', Amsterdam, Netherlands (Travelling Exhibition)

1957 Kunsthalle Basel, 'Alexander Calder', Basel, Switzerland (Travelling Exhibition)

1956 Perls Galleries, 'Calder', New York NY

1955 Museo de Bellas Artes, 'Exposiciòn Calder', Caracas, Venezuela

1953 Walker Art Center, 'Alexander Calder Mobiles', Minneapolis MN (Travelling Exhibition)

1952 Curt Valentin Gallery, 'Alexander Calder: Gongs and Towers', New York NY

1950 New Gallery, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'Calder', Cambridge MA
Galerie Maeght, 'Calder: Mobiles & Stabiles', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)

1948 Ministerio da Educaçao e Saude, 'Alexander Calder', Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Travelling Exhibition)

1946 Galerie Louis Carré, 'Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations', Paris, France

1944 Buchholz Gallery/Curt Valentin, 'Recent Work by Alexander Calder', New York NY

1943 MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Alexander Calder: Sculptures and Constructions', New York NY
Addison Gallery of American Art, '17 Mobiles by Alexander Calder', Andover MA

1941 San Francisco Museum of Art, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Stabiles and Jewelry', San Francisco CA

1940 Willard Gallery, 'Calder Jewelry', New York NY

1938 George Walter Vincent Smith Gallery, 'Calder Mobiles', Springfield MA

1937 The Mayor Gallery, 'Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles', London, UK

1935 The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder', Chicago IL

1934 Pierre Matisse Gallery, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder', New York NY

1932 Julien Levy Gallery, 'Calder: Mobiles / Abstract Sculptures', New York NY
Galerie Vignon, 'Calder: ses mobiles', Paris, France

1931 Galerie Percier, 'Alexandre Calder: Volumes–Vecteurs–Densités / Dessins–Portraits', Paris, France

1929 Fifty-Sixth Street Galleries, 'Alexander Calder: Paintings, Wood Sculpture, Toys, Wire Sculpture, Jewelry, Textiles', New York NY
Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf, 'Alexander Calder: Skulpturen aus Holz und aus Draht', Berlin, Germany
Galerie Billiet-Pierre Vorms, 'Sculptures bois et fil de fer de Alexander Calder', Paris, France

1928 Weyhe Gallery, 'Wire Sculpture by Alexander Calder', New York NY

1927 Galleries of Jacques Seligmann and Company, Paris, France

For a comprehensive list of exhibitions and publications, see www.calder.org.

Selected Group Exhibitions

2019 Musée Picasso, 'Calder-Picasso', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)

2017 Hauser & Wirth, 'Alexander Calder David Smith', Zurich, Switzerland

2016 Itaú Cultural, 'Calder and Brazilian Art', Sao Paulo, Brazil
Fondation Beyeler, 'Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss', Riehen, Switzerland

2015 Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, 'Marvelous Objects: Surrealist Sculpture from Paris to New York', Washington DC
Hauser & Wirth, 'Transparence: Alexander Calder/Francis Picabia', Zurich, Switzerland
Pulitzer Arts Foundation, 'Calder Lightness; Richard Tuttle Wire Pieces; Fred Sandback 64 Three–Part Pieces', St. Louis MO

2013 Centre Pompidou, 'Le Surréalisme et l'objet', Paris, France

2004 Fondation Beyeler, 'Calder–Miró', Riehen, Switzerland (Travelling Exhibition)

1993 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 'Picasso and the Age of Iron', New York NY

1968 MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age', New York NY

1953 Museu de Arte Moderna, 'II Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo', Sao Paulo, Brazil
Wadsworth Atheneum, 'Alexander Calder: Mobiles / Naum Gabo: Kinetic Constructions and Constructions in Space', Hartford CT

1952 La Biennale di Venezia, 'XXVI International Art Exhibition', Venice, Italy

1949 Philadelphia Museum of Art / Fairmount Park Art Association, 'Third International Exhibition of Sculpture', Philadelphia PA

1947 Stedelijk Museum, 'Alexander Calder/Fernand Léger', Amsterdam, Netherlands

1942 Whitelaw Reid Mansion / Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, 'First Papers of Surrealism', New York NY

1936 MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism', New York NY
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Cubism and Abstract Art', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)

Selected Awards

1977 Presidential Medal of Freedom, Washington DC
The Goslar Kaiserring Award for Modern Art, City of Goslar, Goslar, Germany

1975 Honorary Fellow, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague, Netherlands
United Nations Peace Medal, UN United Nations, New York NY

1974 Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur, Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, Paris, France
Citoyen d’Honneur, City of Saché, Saché, France
Official Mayoral Decree of ‘Alexander Calder Day in Chicago’ for 25 October; Honorary Citizen of Chicago, City of Chicago, Chicago IL
Le Grand Prix National des Arts, French Ministry of Culture, Paris, France

1971 Gold Medal for Sculpture, American Academy of Arts and Letters / National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York NY

1970 Honorary Doctorate, University of California, Oakland CA
Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK

1969 Honorary Degree, Doctor of Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken NJ
Key to the City of Grand Rapids, City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids MI

1968 Officier de la Légion d’honneur, Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, Paris, France

1966 Honorary Degree, Doctor of Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge MA

1964 Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York NY

1963 President’s Medal, The Art Directors Club of New York, New York NY

1962 Art in America Annual Award for an Outstanding Contribution to American Art, Art in America, New York NY
Creative Arts Awards, Sculpture Medal, Brandeis University, Waltham MA

1961 Fine Arts Gold Medal for Master of Sculpture, AIA American Institute of Architects, Washington DC

1960 Elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters, National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York NY
Gold Medal of Honor in Sculpture, Architectural League of New York, New York NY

1952 Grand Prize for Sculpture, XXVI Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy

Selected Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL
Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Berkeley CA Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago IL
Museum of Modern Art, New York NY
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia PA
Leeum – Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York NY
Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University, New Haven CT

Bibliography

Selected Monographs

2020 Perl, Jed, 'Calder. The Conquest of Space. The Later Years: 1940-1976', New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, ill.

2019 Goto, Stephanie, Berardini, Andrew, Jones, James (et al.), 'Calder. Nonspace', Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2019, ill. (exh. cat.)

2018 Braeuer Dam, Susan, Holmes, Jessica, Rower, Alexander S. C., 'Alexander Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky', Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2018, ill. (exh. cat.)

2017 Perl, Jed, 'Calder. The Conquest of Time. The Early Years: 1898-1940', New York: Alfred A. Knopf, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017, ill.

2015 Rower, Alexander S. C. (ed.), 'Calder in France' [Cahiers d’Art no. 1], Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 2015, ill.

2013 Rower, Alexander S. C. (ed.), 'Calder by Matter', Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 2013, ill.

2009 Pierre, Arnauld, 'Calder: Mouvement et Réalité', Paris: Éditions Hazan, 2009, ill.

2008 Mulas, Ugo, Argan, Giulio C., Calder, Alexander, 'Ugo Mulas/Alexander Calder', Milan: Officina Libraria, 2008, ill.

2007 Rower, Alexander S. C., Rower, Holton (eds.), 'Calder Jewelry', New York: Calder Foundation, 2007, ill.

2003 Stern, H. Peter, Collens, David R., Rower, Alexander S. C., 'Calder: Storm King Art Center', Mountainville: Storm King Art Center, 2003, ill. (exh. cat.)

1998 Guerrero, Pedro E., 'Calder at Home: The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder', New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1998, ill.
Rower, Alexander S. C., 'Calder Sculpture', New York: Universe, 1998, ill.

1996 Carandente, Giovanni, 'Teodelapio: Alexander Calder', Milan: Edizioni Charta, 1996, ill.
Pierre, Arnauld, 'Calder: La sculpture en mouvement', Paris: Découvertes Gallimard, 1996

1977 Hayes, Margaret, 'Calder. Three Alexander Calders. A Family Memoir', Middlebury: Paul S. Eriksson, 1977, ill.

1975 Bruzeau, Maurice, 'Calder à Saché', Paris: Éditions Cercle d’Art, 1973, ill.

1971 Arnason, H. Harvard, Mulas, Ugo, 'Calder', New York: Viking Press, 1971, ill.
Calder, Alexander, Sweeney, James Johnson, Lelong, Daniel, 'Calder, l’artiste et l’oeuvre' [Archives Maeght no. 1], Paris: Maeght Editeur, 1971, ill.

1966 Arnason, H. Harvard, Guerrero, Pedro E., 'Calder', New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1966
Davidson, Jean (ed.), 'Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures', New York: Pantheon Books, 1966

1951 Sweeney, James Johnson, 'Alexander Calder', New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1951

Selected Images

London (maquette)

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