Alexander Calder

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.

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Alexander Calder


Print Biography
Lawnton PA, 1898

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

New York NY, 1976

Solo Exhibitions

Neue Nationalgalerie, 'Alexander Calder. Minimal / Maximal', Berlin, Germany
Kunsthal Rotterdam, 'Calder Now', Rotterdam, Netherlands
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Alexander Calder. Modern from the Start', New York NY
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 'Calder: Great Yellow Sun', Tel Aviv, Israel
Storm King Art Center, 'Calder Hillside', New Windsor NY (Permanent Exhibtion)
National Gallery of Art, 'Calder Tower', Washington DC (Permanent Exhibition)
Palazzo Collicola – Galleria d’Arte Moderna, 'Calder Gallery', Spoleto, Italy (Permanent Exhibition)
Neuberger Museum of Art, State University of New York, 'Calder from the Collection', New York NY
Heather James, 'Alexander Calder: Bold Gouaches', New York NY
Galerie Alexandre Guillemain, 'Alexander Calder (1898-1976). Tapisseries', Paris, France
SFMOMA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 'Elemental Calder', San Francisco CA
K Museum of Contemporary Art, 'Calder on Paper', Seoul, South Korea
Hauser & Wirth, 'Calder', St. Moritz, Switzerland
Art Pavilion, 'Magic of a Sculptural Movement', Zagreb, Croatia
Pace Gallery, 'Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere', New York NY
Galeria Elvira González, 'Calder. Gouaches', Madrid, Spain
Huxley-Parlour Gallery, 'Alexander Calder: Works on Paper', London, UK
Centro Botín, 'Calder Stories', Santander, Spain
Grand Rapids Art Museum, 'Alexander Calder: Pour La Grande Vitesse and other Works on Paper', Grand Rapids MI
National Gallery of Victoria, 'Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor', Melbourne, Australia (Travelling Exhibition)
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
Musée Soulages, 'Calder: Forgeron des géantes libellules', Rodez, France
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder: Hypermobility', New York NY
Hauser & Wirth, 'Alexander Calder: Calder in the Alps', Gstaad, Switzerland
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
Rijksmuseum, 'Alexander Calder at the Rijksmuseum', Amsterdam, Netherlands
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
Gemeentemuseum, 'Alexander Calder: De grote ontdekking', The Hague, Netherlands
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 'Calder's Portraits: A New Language', Washington DC
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 'Calder: Sculptor of Air', Rome, Italy
Seattle Art Museum, 'Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act', Seattle WA
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
Pinacoteca do Estato de São Paulo, 'Calder no Brasil', Sao Paulo, Brazil (Travelling Exhibition)
Menil Collection, 'The Surreal Calder', Houston TX (Travelling Exhibition)
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, 'Calder: Gravedad y la Gracia', Bilbao, Spain (Travelling Exhibition)
Storm King Art Center, 'Grand Intuitions: Calder’s Monumental Sculpture', Mountainville NY
Iwaki City Art Museum, 'Alexander Calder: Motion and Color', Iwaki, Japan (Travelling Exhibition)
Wadsworth Atheneum, 'Calder in Connecticut', Hartford CT
National Gallery of Art, 'Alexander Calder: 1898-1976', Washington DC
Fundacío Joan Miró, 'Calder', Barcelona, Spain
San Jose Museum of Art, 'Flying Colors: The Innovation and Artistry of Alexander Calder', San Jose CA
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 'Alexander Calder: Retrospective', Humlebaek, Denmark (Travelling Exhibition)
Musée Picasso, Château Grimaldi, 'Calder: Mobiles, stabiles, gouaches, bijoux…', Antibes, France
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Celebrating Calder', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 'Calder Intime', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, 'Alexander Calder: An American Invention', Lincoln NE
Palazzo a Vela, 'Calder: Mostra retrospettiva', Turin, Italy
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder's Universe', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
Haus der Kunst, 'Calder', Munich, Germany (Travelling Exhibition)
Museum of Contemporary Art, 'Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, Work from 1925-1974', Chicago IL
Galerie Maeght, 'Alexander Calder: Retrospektive', Zurich, Switzerland
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder's Circus', New York NY
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)
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Calder: 19 Gifts from the Artist', New York NY
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 'Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
Tate Gallery / Arts Council of Great Britain, 'Alexander Calder: Sculpture–Mobiles', London, UK
Stedelijk Museum, 'Alexander Calder, Stabilen, Mobilen', Amsterdam, Netherlands (Travelling Exhibition)
Kunsthalle Basel, 'Alexander Calder', Basel, Switzerland (Travelling Exhibition)
Perls Galleries, 'Calder', New York NY
Museo de Bellas Artes, 'Exposiciòn Calder', Caracas, Venezuela
Walker Art Center, 'Alexander Calder Mobiles', Minneapolis MN (Travelling Exhibition)
Curt Valentin Gallery, 'Alexander Calder: Gongs and Towers', New York NY
New Gallery, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'Calder', Cambridge MA
Galerie Maeght, 'Calder: Mobiles & Stabiles', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)
Ministerio da Educaçao e Saude, 'Alexander Calder', Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Travelling Exhibition)
Galerie Louis Carré, 'Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations', Paris, France
Buchholz Gallery/Curt Valentin, 'Recent Work by Alexander Calder', New York NY
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
San Francisco Museum of Art, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Stabiles and Jewelry', San Francisco CA
Willard Gallery, 'Calder Jewelry', New York NY
George Walter Vincent Smith Gallery, 'Calder Mobiles', Springfield MA
The Mayor Gallery, 'Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles', London, UK
The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder', Chicago IL
Pierre Matisse Gallery, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder', New York NY
Julien Levy Gallery, 'Calder: Mobiles / Abstract Sculptures', New York NY
Galerie Vignon, 'Calder: ses mobiles', Paris, France
Galerie Percier, 'Alexandre Calder: Volumes–Vecteurs–Densités / Dessins–Portraits', Paris, France
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
Weyhe Gallery, 'Wire Sculpture by Alexander Calder', New York NY
Galleries of Jacques Seligmann and Company, Paris, France
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For a comprehensive list of exhibitions and publications, see

Selected Group Exhibitions

Hauser & Wirth, 'Chromophilia', Zurich, Switzerland
Museum of Fine Arts, 'Calder-Picasso', Houston TX
Hauser & Wirth, 'Drawing on the Mind', cur. Zhang Enli, Central, Hong Kong
Musée d'art de Pully, 'Calder, Soulages, Vasarely... Abstractions Plurielles (1950-1980). Collection de la Fondation Gandur pour l'Art', Pully, Switzerland
Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 'Moving Vision', Oklahoma City OK
De Young Museum, 'Calder-Picasso', San Francisco CA
Almine Rech Gallery, 'Still Life', Paris, France
IVAM Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, 'Mechanical and Technical Imaginaries in the IVAM Collection', Valencia, Spain
Skarstedt Gallery, 'Faces and Figures', New York NY
Van de Weghe Fine Art, 'Calder / Moore', New York NY
Luxembourg & Co., 'Lost in Italy', London, UK
Henry Moore Institute, 'Portable Sculpture', Leeds, UK
Museu Picasso, 'Picasso and Artist’s Jewelry', Barcelona, Spain
The Broad, 'Invisible Sun', Los Angeles CA
Olivier Malingue, 'Five Years', London, UK
Musée Matisse, 'Pierre Matisse: An Art Dealer in New York', Nice, France
High Museum of Art, 'Calder-Picasso', Atlanta GA
Palazzo Collicola – Galleria d’Arte Moderna, 'Work in Progress', Spoleto, Italy
Kicken Gallery, 'Calder X Mies: Reflections on Alexander Calder and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe', Berlin, Germany
Fundació Suñol, 'Entre actes: Obres mestres conegudes', Barcelona, Spain
Luxembourg & Dayan, 'Sound Lasting and Leaving', New York NY
Pace Gallery, 'Calder, Callahan, and the Intensified Image', New York NY
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 'Disonata: Art in Sound up to 1980', Madrid, Spain
Museum of Contemporary Art, 'Unfinished Business', Chicago IL
Benaki Museum, 'Christian Zervos & Cahiers d’Art: The Archaic Turn', Athens, Greece
Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, 'The Fabric of Modernity: Matisse, Picasso, Miró…and French Tapestries', Munich, Germany
Fondation Louis Vuitton, 'Charlotte Perriand: Inventing a New World', Paris, France
Galerie Natalie Seroussi, 'Calder / Saraceno', Paris, France
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Artist’s Choice: Amy Sillman—The Shape of Shape', New York NY
Centre Pompidou Metz, 'Constructed Worlds. A Choice of Sculptures from the Centre Pompidou', Metz, France
Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, 'Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein', New Brunswick NJ
West Bund Museum, 'The Shape of Time: Highlights from the Centre Pompidou Collection. Vol. 1', Shanghai, China
Musée National Fernand Léger, 'Vis-à-vis III. Fernand Léger et ses ami.e.s.', Biot, France
Venus Over Manhattan, 'Calder Crags + Vanuatu Totems from the Collection of Wayne Heathcote', New York NY
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, 'Braque, Miró, Calder, Nelson: Varengeville, un atelier sur les falaises', Rouen, France
Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, 'Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein', Amherst MA (Travelling Exhibition)
Nahmad Projects, 'Calder/Miró: Clair de Lune', London, UK
Museo Picasso, 'Calder-Picasso', Málaga, Spain (Travelling Exhibition)
Musée Picasso, 'Calder – Picasso', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)
Hauser & Wirth, 'Alexander Calder David Smith', Zurich, Switzerland
Itaú Cultural, 'Calder and Brazilian Art', Sao Paulo, Brazil
Fondation Beyeler, 'Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss', Riehen, Switzerland
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
Centre Pompidou, 'Le Surréalisme et l'objet', Paris, France
Fondation Beyeler, 'Calder–Miró', Riehen, Switzerland (Travelling Exhibition)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 'Picasso and the Age of Iron', New York NY
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age', New York NY
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
La Biennale di Venezia, 'XXVI International Art Exhibition', Venice, Italy
Philadelphia Museum of Art / Fairmount Park Art Association, 'Third International Exhibition of Sculpture', Philadelphia PA
Stedelijk Museum, 'Alexander Calder/Fernand Léger', Amsterdam, Netherlands
Whitelaw Reid Mansion / Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, 'First Papers of Surrealism', New York NY
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)
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Selected Awards

Presidential Medal of Freedom, Washington DC
The Goslar Kaiserring Award for Modern Art, City of Goslar, Goslar, Germany
Honorary Fellow, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague, Netherlands
United Nations Peace Medal, UN United Nations, New York NY
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
Gold Medal for Sculpture, American Academy of Arts and Letters / National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York NY
Honorary Doctorate, University of California, Oakland CA
Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
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
Officier de la Légion d’honneur, Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, Paris, France
Honorary Degree, Doctor of Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge MA
Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York NY
President’s Medal, The Art Directors Club of New York, New York NY
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
Fine Arts Gold Medal for Master of Sculpture, AIA American Institute of Architects, Washington DC
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
Grand Prize for Sculpture, XXVI Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy
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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


Selected Monographs

Perl, Jed, 'Calder. The Conquest of Space. The Later Years: 1940-1976', New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, ill.
Goto, Stephanie, Berardini, Andrew, Jones, James (et al.), 'Calder. Nonspace', Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2019, ill. (exh. cat.)
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.)
Perl, Jed, 'Calder. The Conquest of Time. The Early Years: 1898-1940', New York: Alfred A. Knopf, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017, ill.
Rower, Alexander S. C. (ed.), 'Calder in France' [Cahiers d’Art no. 1], Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 2015, ill.
Rower, Alexander S. C. (ed.), 'Calder by Matter', Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 2013, ill.
Pierre, Arnauld, 'Calder: Mouvement et Réalité', Paris: Éditions Hazan, 2009, ill.
Mulas, Ugo, Argan, Giulio C., Calder, Alexander, 'Ugo Mulas/Alexander Calder', Milan: Officina Libraria, 2008, ill.
Rower, Alexander S. C., Rower, Holton (eds.), 'Calder Jewelry', New York: Calder Foundation, 2007, ill.
Stern, H. Peter, Collens, David R., Rower, Alexander S. C., 'Calder: Storm King Art Center', Mountainville: Storm King Art Center, 2003, ill. (exh. cat.)
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.
Carandente, Giovanni, 'Teodelapio: Alexander Calder', Milan: Edizioni Charta, 1996, ill.
Pierre, Arnauld, 'Calder: La sculpture en mouvement', Paris: Découvertes Gallimard, 1996
Hayes, Margaret, 'Calder. Three Alexander Calders. A Family Memoir', Middlebury: Paul S. Eriksson, 1977, ill.
Bruzeau, Maurice, 'Calder à Saché', Paris: Éditions Cercle d’Art, 1973, ill.
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.
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
Sweeney, James Johnson, 'Alexander Calder', New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1951
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Selected images

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Museum Exhibitions

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Book Lab

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Ursula magazine

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