Why the Whitney is making its Calder show move

The NY museum has taken the unusual step of animating Calder’s mobiles, with a little bit of help
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Hanging Spider (c. 1940) by Alexander Calder. Image courtesy of the Whitney
Hanging Spider (c. 1940) by Alexander Calder. Image courtesy of the Whitney

One of the most engaging aspects of Alexander Calder’s art – and one that has influenced children’s nursery décor across the world – is that his sculptures move.

The US artist invented his signature form, the mobile, in 1932, and continued to create kinetic works right up until his death in 1976. However, Calder’s works are both delicate and expensive – Christie’s set a record for his work at auction in 2014, selling a 1958 fish-themed mobile for nearly $26m.

 

 

Up until now, many museums and galleries have chosen not to push, pull or otherwise animate his art. However, the Whitney’s current show, Calder: Hypermobility, chooses, instead to set these beautiful bits of 20th century art spinning, in a show that makes a virtue of the artwork’s movements.

Don’t go along to the show, expecting to whack one with your selfie stick. The Whitney has instead arranged for its own art handlers, as well as a selection of contemporary artists to activate the works.  The musician Jim O’Rouke, the legendary director and recent JR collaborator Agnès Varda and the artist Christian Marclay are all taking part. O’Rouke has even composed a piece inspired by the mobiles. Sounds like a highly moving summer smash.

 

 

For a childlike take on the artist, order a copy of One & Other Numbers with Alexander Calder; for more on Christian Marclay get this book; and for more on Calder’s work get The Elements of Sculpture.


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