Alexander Calder

Modern from the Start

Alexander Calder. Sandy’s Butterfly. 1964. Steel, stainless sheet steel, iron rods, and paint, 12' 8" × 9' 2" × 8' 7" (386 × 279 × 261 cm). Gift of the artist. © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • MoMA, Floor 1, Sculpture Garden The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden
  • MoMA, Floor 3, 3 South The Edward Steichen Galleries

Alexander Calder reimagined sculpture as an experiment in space and motion, upending centuries-old notions that sculpture should be static, grounded, and dense by making artworks that often move freely and interact with their surroundings. “One of Calder’s objects is like the sea,” wrote the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, “always beginning over again, always new.” Bringing together early wire and wood figures, works on paper, jewelry, mobiles in motion, and monumental abstract sculptures, the exhibition takes a deep dive into the full breadth of Calder’s career and inventiveness.

Calder’s ever-changing artworks invite a viewer’s sustained attention; and The Museum of Modern Art has provided a setting for this productive exchange ever since his work was first exhibited here in 1930, just months after the Museum opened its doors. This exhibition looks at Calder’s work through the lens of this connection. Throughout MoMA’s formative years, Calder, in his unofficial role as “house artist,” was called upon to produce several commissioned works—including Lobster Trap and Fish Tail, a multicolored mobile that hangs in the same stairwell for which it was made in 1939. His works have been a mainstay of the Museum’s galleries and Sculpture Garden ever since.

Drawn from MoMA’s collection and augmented with key loans from the Calder Foundation, the exhibition celebrates one of the most beloved artists of the 20th century and presents rarely seen works, including the large-scale Man-Eater with Pennants, which will be on view in the Sculpture Garden for the first time in more than 50 years after new conservation.

Organized by Cara Manes, Associate Curator, with Zuna Maza and Makayla Bailey, Curatorial Fellows, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

  • This exhibition is part of Virtual Views.

    Leadership support for the exhibition is provided by the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation.

    Generous funding is provided by the Alice L. Walton Foundation, Jeanne and Bob Savitt, Robert F. Shapiro, Jr., Jack Shear through The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, and the Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation.

    Additional support is provided by The Lipman Family Foundation, Inc.

    Leadership contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund, in support of the Museum’s collection and collection exhibitions, are generously provided by Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, the Sandra and Tony Tamer Exhibition Fund, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Eva and Glenn Dubin, Alice and Tom Tisch, Mimi Haas, the Noel and Harriette Levine Endowment, The David Rockefeller Council, the William Randolph Hearst Endowment Fund, the Marella and Giovanni Agnelli Fund for Exhibitions, Anne Dias, Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Kenneth C. Griffin, The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, and Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.

    Major contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund are provided by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Brett and Daniel Sundheim, the Terra Foundation for American Art, Karen and Gary Winnick, and Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro.

    The publication is made possible by the Jo Carole Lauder Publications Fund of The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

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