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When Alexander “Sandy” Calder

(1898–1976) arrived in Paris in
1926, he aspired to be a painter;
when he left in 1933, he had evolved
into the artist we know today: an

force in twentieth-century sculpture.

animating drawn line transformed
from two dimensions to three, from
ink and paint to wire, and his
radical innovations included open-
form wire caricature portraits, a
bestiary of wire animals, his beloved
and critically important miniature
Circus (1926–31), abstract and

paradigm-shifting “mobiles.”
Paris: A Family Legacy studied engineering principles that
would have important implications for
Alexander “Sandy” Calder (1898–1976), his later sculptures. Calder received his
just shy of twenty-eight years old, arrived degree in mechanical engineering from
in Paris in July 1926 by way of England, Stevens in 1919 and held numerous
making the transatlantic journey by engineering-related and other odd jobs
working on a freighter. Both of his parents between then and 1922, but none was
were artists who had studied in Paris. In very satisfying. During a hiatus between
the 1890s his mother, Nanette Lederer jobs in 1922, he took night classes in
(1866–1960), a painter, attended the drawing in Manhattan. “I became very
Académie Julien and the Sorbonne after enthusiastic—more so than in any other
her studies at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania of my post-college ventures so far—and I
Academy of Fine Arts; his father, sculptor attended consistently,” he later recalled.2
Alexander Stirling Calder (1870–1945), The following year, after the last of these
studied at the Académie Julien and the jobs at a logging camp in Independence,
École des Beaux Arts, after also training at Washington, Calder returned East to
the Academy. Following their individual study at New York’s Art Students League.
trips, they met at the Pennsylvania
Academy, where she again was studying
and to which he had returned from Paris New York: Seeing the City
to become an instructor of anatomy. with “Sandy” calder
Calder’s sister Margaret (known as
“Peggy”) wrote, “family legend has it that Between 1923 and 1925 Calder studied
Father and Mother met over a cadaver.”1 life and pictorial composition with John
They married in 1895, and returned to Sloan, portrait painting with George
Paris for a short time. Peggy was born in Luks, head and figure painting with
Fig. 1. Untitled (Monkey), 1925. Ink on paper, 5 9/16 x 3 3/4 in. (14.1 x 9.5 cm).
Paris in 1896; Sandy was born two years William Pène du Bois, and life drawing Calder Foundation, New York
later in Lawnton, Pennsylvania. with Boardman Robinson.3 Calder
Calder’s paternal grandfather, Alexan- credited Robinson for encouraging his
der Milne Calder (1846–1923), had also talents in drawing with a single line, a
visited and worked in Paris and studied technique in which the drawing implement
at the Pennsylvania Academy; he was does not leave the paper. His facility at line city views reveal his engineer’s eye and an still recovering from the great loss of
celebrated in the 1890s for his colossal drawing led to his newspaper illustration affinity for movement—ideas he would life and economic devastation of World
public sculptures, among them a 36-ton, work for the National Police Gazette, the develop in new materials and new forms in War I yet it remained the fabled city of
27-foot-high figure of William Penn, New Yorker, and the New York Times, Paris. There his drawn line, transformed many liberties—social, sexual, political,
installed atop Philadelphia’s City Hall in among others. Calder’s fluid drawing to lengths of ordinary wire, would become racial, and cultural. By comparison,
1894, which remains a landmark today. enlivened the renderings of animals that what he called “wire sculpture (or three- Calder’s homeland of the United
Working on sculpture commissions in- he made during visits to New York’s dimensional drawing).”4 States was, in the “Roaring Twenties,”
volved frequent travel for Calder’s father, Central Park and Bronx zoos (fig. 1) unharmed by war and experiencing a
who at times relocated his family as well, and that were published in his teaching buoyant economic upswing, but faced
and intermittently experienced financial manual Animal Sketching (1926), for Arrival in Paris increasing isolationism, racial divides,
insecurity. His son was not initially drawn which he also wrote the texts. and conservatism (indeed Puritanism, as
to a life’s work as an artist. Like his teachers, Calder took as his Calder gave few reasons for his decision Prohibition came into effect in 1920 and
Calder had heard of the profession subjects scenes from everyday life. He to go to Paris; simply put: “Paris was wasn’t rescinded until 1933). Once in
of mechanical engineering from a exhibited in group shows in New York, the place to go, on all accounts of Paris, as we know from his letters, Calder
schoolmate at high school in San including a painting of a circus sideshow practically everyone who had been there, thought the city a destination for an artist
Francisco. After graduating, he attended in an early exhibition at the downtown and I decided I would also like to go.”5 whose ambition was “to arrive,” and
the Stevens Institute of Technology Whitney Studio Club, a precursor to the Paris during the 1920s—“Les Années where he hoped to exhibit, sell, and gain
in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he Whitney Museum of American Art. His Folles” (the crazy years)—was a city critical attention for his work.
Calder had the encouragement of his from the revue’s other vaudeville and
parents, and his mother sent him seventy- jazz numbers.
five dollars each month. Living was cheap, Though many black American
given an exchange rate highly favorable to performers had received acclaim in Paris,
dollars, if not always easy. Calder initially Baker’s celebrity marked the “Jazz Age,”
stayed in a hotel in Montparnasse— attracting attention not only there, but
finding his first home and studio a month internationally. The response of the French
later. Since arriving in July he had begun press was complex and contradictory,
to explore the café life on the boulevards, but as historian Tyler Stovall explained,
especially at the Café du Dôme, where “These stereotypes were overwhelmingly
many artists and writers passed their time. positive. However demeaning they may
He met others at the famous art school seem from present-day perspectives, in
L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière, the 1920s most black Americans in Paris
where he drew from the live model. Later, welcomed and praised the racial attitudes
through his Circus performances as well of their French hosts. The French seemed
as in artists’ studios and cafés, Calder met to regard blackness as something of
colleagues who would become icons of value, an attitude noticeably absent in
twentieth-century art as well as life-long the United States.”7
friends, including Piet Mondrian, Fernand Baker appeared in kiosk posters and
Léger, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp. magazine photographs; dresses and a hair
The academic drawings in Calder’s cream, Bakerfix, were marketed in her
first sketchbook stand in stark contrast name; and dolls in her likeness were sold.
to the radical qualities of the three- Man Ray, Henri Laurens, Pablo Picasso,
dimensional “drawing in space” he began Kees van Dongen, and Tsuguharu Foujita
to make in Paris. Wire toys for his own paid her homage, and Calder depicted her
amusement, life-like wood sculptures and in at least five wire sculptures.
wire animals, and figures and mechanisms Calder’s first Josephine Baker sculpture
for his miniature Circus were all in is similar in scale to the dolls and toys he
progress by Fall 1926. By then he had had made earlier and is static on its wood
already begun to study French, with a base. The others are ceiling-suspended.
“grand old lady,” Calder wrote, “who Three of the larger Baker sculptures
taught Mark Twain forty years ago” and also emphasize spiraling breasts and
had also coached Whistler.6 belly, while the fourth and latest in date,
Throughout his career, Calder was Aztec Josephine Baker (c. 1929; Calder
responsive to images and events around Foundation, New York), presents a
him. One of his first wire sculptures further geometrically abstracted form:
was of Josephine Baker, recalling the breasts, arms, and a single wire that
celebrities he had drawn earlier for the defines the torso and legs are suspended
Police Gazette. Baker’s public reception from a single “shoulder” wire. Body parts
was tremendous and her image was move independently of one other as they
ubiquitous in Paris. She had become an are animated by air currents, just as the
overnight success upon her 1925 debut elements of his later mobiles would.
in La Revue Nègre at the Théatre des The other of his first two wire
Champs-Elysées and was celebrated for sculptures, Struttin’ His Stuff (1926),
her lithe body, minimal costumes, and Calder referred to as “a boxing Negro in
Fig. 2. A page from Alexander Calder’s Scrapbook, 1926–32 (detail). fast-paced Charleston, as well as for a top hat.”8 His inspiration might have
Chinese ledger notebook containing newspaper clippings, 11 x 17 in. (27.9 x 43.2 cm). the unbridled sexuality and artificial been celebrity boxer and champion
Alexander Calder papers, 1926–1967, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
exoticism of a French-invented “African” Alfonso Teofilo Brown, known as
danse sauvage duet, which differed “Panama” Al Brown, a native of Panama
who emigrated first to the United States Calder’s Circus
and then to France, and was a grand
success in Paris. Like Baker, Brown Over a period of five years in Paris,
became renowned for his fast-paced Calder created and performed one of his
moves, enormous sums earned, and a most important and beloved works, his
fondness for nightlife and fancy dress. miniature circus—titled in French Cirque
Calder himself was touched by the Calder and in English Calder’s Circus
celebrity culture of the 1920s, which (1926–31) (figs. 3 and 4). His numerous
was disseminated through advertising, visits to circuses, including the boisterous
gossip columns, and the wire services three rings of Ringling Brothers and
that circulated news and photos Barnum & Bailey in New York and the
internationally. A full-page article in quieter spectacle of the one-ring Médrano
Les Échos des Industries d’Art showed circus in Paris inspired the aerial play of
the variety of works Calder had made circus figures. These were made of the
during his first year in Paris—toys, circus most ordinary materials—wire and string,
performers, animal sculptures, and the bits of metal, and cloth.
figurative wire sculptures Josephine For as long as there have been circuses,
Baker and Struttin’ His Stuff—and its artists have taken as subjects their
Fig. 3. Tight Rope Artists from Calder’s Circus, 1926–31. Wire, cloth, paper, leather, lead, graphite, and thread,
text emphasized the artist’s talent for performers and their dazzling, often
dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 83.36.48 and 83.36.50 caricature (fig. 2). This article, annotated suspenseful, acts. Georges Seurat, Edgar
in Calder’s hand, was kept with many Degas, and Picasso, among others,
others in different languages, some depicted circuses in Europe; Edward
gathered by professional clipping services, Hopper, George Luks, and John Sloan,
in Calder’s scrapbook of his “Paris Years.” did so in the United States. Though
Calder had previously painted and drawn
the circus, his miniature Circus was
Toys something far different: he performed
it. Serving as narrator and puppeteer in
One could say that Calder’s mobile works this early example of performance art,
began with a small brass rocking duck he Calder presented his Circus act-by-act
made at the age of eleven. He also made in a precise order. The ringmaster (the
armor and weapons, covering an old pair mainly wire-and-cloth Mr. Loyal) opened
of his mother’s gloves in tin scales for his the show by welcoming the audience and
knight’s costume, and fashioned jewelry blowing his whistle. Calder’s version of
for his sister’s dolls from beads and found the contemporary circus’s Roman chariot
bits of copper wire. The toys Calder race served as its finale.
made in Paris some twenty years later, Calder’s audience sat on a low bed
including animated horses and rolling or on crates, munching peanuts while
carts, were for his own amusement. His Calder manipulated his characters with
toy designs were also a means to become strings and wires so that trapezists
self-supporting. When he began to be paid flew through the air, cowboys lassoed
fifty dollars a month from the Gould Toy horses, and acrobats catapulted across
Company of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for a space. His hand-cranked mechanisms
series of colorful, wooden “Action Toys,” allowed horses and their riders to circle
he ceased receiving the monthly stipend the ring and a belly dancer to gyrate in
from his mother. life-like ways. Aerialists, clowns, a knife
Fig. 4. Agnès Varda (b. 1928), Le pied de Calder et le lion de son Cirque, 1953. thrower, a sword swallower, and others
Modern print from the original negative. Agnès Varda Archives © Agnès Varda
were all set into motion. The realism of
Calder’s Circus ranged from the life-death
suspense of his trapezist attempting a Sherman, Roni Horn, Paul McCarthy,
mid-air “catch” (which sometimes failed) and Pierrick Sorin are among those
to the mundane act of him sweeping with who have incorporated circus themes in
a tiny shovel the droppings (in the form of their work. Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s
chestnuts) his menagerie had left behind Circo de Puglas Cordoso (Cardoso
in the ring. Flea Circus) (1994–2000), like Calder’s
Throughout his “Paris Years” Calder Circus, features a fabric tent as well as
supported himself in a variety of ways: mechanisms to assist its tiny players in
through the sale of his work, illustration performance. In contrast to Calder’s
projects, his contract with Gould small-scale Circus, Cardoso’s is a
Manufacturing, and occasional help from micro-miniature spectacle, designed for,
home. At times Calder used the Circus to performed by, and captured in a video of
supplement his income. In Paris in 1930, the fleas of its title.
he performed it for four nights running,
earning one hundred dollars from friends
to pay his rent. He brought his Circus Bestiary
with him when he traveled in Europe and
on his regular trips to the United States. Calder’s sculptural bestiary is related
After he and Louisa James, whom he had to the hundreds of toys he made
met on one of his transatlantic crossings, from broomstick handles, bits of wire,
were married in 1931; her income helped and other ordinary materials just prior
Fig. 5. Varèse, 1931. Wire, 13 3/4 x
the couple maintain financial stability, but to leaving for Paris. He also made a 11 5/8 x 14 1/2 in. (34.9 x 29.5 x 36.8 cm).
they continued to live modestly. wire sundial in the form of a rooster Whitney Museum of American Art, New
York; 50th Anniversary gift of Mrs. Louise
Many friends and colleagues, including (whereabouts unknown), a utilitarian Varèse in honor of Gertrude Vanderbilt
other artists, photographed Calder with invention Calder recognized as his first Whitney 80.25
his Circus, among them Brassaï and wire animal creation. Before leaving
André Kertész. Several films of Calder for Paris, Calder made watercolors and
performing it were also made, including hundreds of pen-and-ink drawings of
Le Grand Cirque Calder 1927 by Jean animals. As his sister Margaret wrote
Painlevé, perhaps the only filmmaker about his methods, “[Calder] rigged up a
to have seen Calder perform his Circus little device that held bottles of India ink
during the “Paris Years” and also film in a row. With this hung around his neck,
it. (The year 1927 of the film’s title he spent days at the zoo, capturing in a
reflects the first full year in which Calder flowing line the languid cats, the bustling
performed the Circus.) Painlevé’s film was bantams, the grimacing baboons.”9
completed in 1955, almost three decades Calder would make a variety of animal
after he first saw the Circus performed, sculptures, including cows, birds, and
and makes its New York–museum debut elephants, throughout his “Paris Years.”
in this exhibition. Calder’s Circus was He worked them in a variety of media:
put on extended loan to the Whitney by scrap material, sheet metal, wood, wire.
the artist in 1970; in 1983, the Museum His early animal sketches captured
purchased the work as a result of an movement and character and profoundly
extraordinary grassroots fundraising influenced his animal sculptures as well
project by more than 500 corporations, as his illustrations for an edition of
foundations, and individuals. Aesop’s fables, published by Harrison of
In keeping with long-standing Paris in 1931.
tradition, the circus (and especially its Fig. 6. The Arrival of the Bremen or
clowns) continues to fascinate artists; The Spirit of St. Louis, c. 1928.
Wire, 17 x 24 x 4 in. (43.2 x 61 x 10.2 cm).
Bruce Nauman, Ugo Rondinone, Cindy Private collection; courtesy Guggenheim,
Asher Associates
Fig. 7. Romulus and Remus,
1928. Wire and wood,
30 1/2 x 124 1/2 x 26 in.
(77.5 x 316.2 x 66 cm).
Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum, New York

Caricatures and portraits artist: “Mr. Calder, an ingenious Yankee, of doorstops, while Spring (Printemps) angles of cardboard”; Calder suggested
is in a class by himself. Instead of squirt- (1928) is an almost 8-foot-tall sculpture to Mondrian “that perhaps it would be
In addition to the sculptures Josephine ing tubes of paint on canvas or mutilating of a woman holding a flower. After exhib- fun to make these rectangles oscillate.”
Baker and Struttin’ His Stuff, Calder marble, he twists pieces of iron wire— iting these two in New York, where they He wrote of Mondrian’s response: “He,
made small wire figures of other celebri- with consummate skill—into a likeness of did not sell, Calder brought them to Paris with a very serious countenance, said:
ties, including tennis champion Helen his model.”10 where they were again exhibited, again ‘No, it is not necessary, my painting is
Wills and industrialist John D. Rock- gained critical recognition, and again did already very fast.’”
efeller, who is depicted as a golfer. He also not sell. He folded them into a bundle Calder, who was known for his figura-
made caricatures of a spectrum Abstracted Figures not to be discovered and undone until tive works, turned quickly to modernist
of society types, such as The Hostess preparations for his 1964 retrospective abstraction after the stunning visit to
(1928; The Museum of Modern Art, Calder soon began to abstract and enlarge at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Mondrian’s studio. “Though I had heard
New York) and Le Policeman (Bobby) the figures for his wire sculptures. The Museum, which subsequently acquired the word ‘modern’ before, I did not con-
(c. 1930; Collection of Joyce Klein), and Arrival of the Bremen or The Spirit of St. the two sculptures. sciously know or feel the term ‘abstract,’”
he made open-form wire portraits, more Louis (fig. 6), a wire sculpture of a reclin- he recalled. “So now, at thirty-two, I
than twenty of which are included in the ing nude grabbing a plane from the sky to wanted to paint and work in the abstract.
exhibition. Until 1928, these portraits are her ample breasts, marks both the record- Abstraction-Création And for two weeks or so, I painted very
of people he knew in New York: many setting 1927 transatlantic solo flight of modest abstractions. At the end of this,
are those associated with the Weyhe Charles Lindbergh (Calder was at Le The “shock,” as Calder referred to it, that I reverted to plastic work which was
Gallery, where he had his first solo show Bourget airport in Paris when the Spirit of turned him towards abstraction and trig- still abstract.”12
in 1928. By the following year, fully St. Louis landed) and the first successful gered ideas for employing movement in ab- One of Calder’s abstract sculptures,
integrated in the Parisian art scene, Calder transatlantic crossing from East to West stract sculptural forms, was a visit to Mon- Sphérique (1931; Whitney Museum of
began to make portraits of friends and by the Bremen in 1928. drian’s studio.11 Calder went to 26, rue de American Art, New York), is situated
colleagues there too. Among them are Calder’s ambitions for his wire sculp- Départ in October 1930 with a friend, the on a painted base that recalls the black-
artists Léger, Miró, and Amédée Ozenfant, tures took him to new mythological abstract painter William “Binks” Einstein. and-white geometries of Mondrian’s
composer Edgard Varèse (fig. 5), and subjects and what was, by comparison He was impressed by the entirety of the paintings (Ever practical, Calder cut such
painter, model, muse, and paramour of to his previous works, an extremely studio (“It was a very exciting room.”) wood bases for his sculptures from the
many artists, Alice Prin, better known as large size. Romulus and Remus (fig. 7), as much as by the paintings he saw there. same planks he had used, set on crates, as
Kiki de Montparnasse, who wrote of the a 10-foot-long she-wolf, has teats made Tacked to the wall were “colored rect- seating for his Circus). Some of Calder’s
earliest abstract sculptures were based it is set into motion, one of the spheres
on orbiting planets; Two Spheres within crashes into objects dispersed in a circle
a Sphere (1931; Calder Foundation, on the floor—wine bottles, a wood crate, a
New York), the first that moved, was tin can, and a gong. In Machine Motorisée
turned by a small wire crank located (1933; Calder Foundation, New York),
at one corner of its wood base. Others, two wood forms appear to “dance” in
such as Pantograph (1931; Moderna duet, the larger abstract figure animated by
Museet, Stockholm) and Half-circle, a motor secreted within its base.
Quarter-circle, and Sphere (fig. 8) were Calder also explored balance and
set in motion by motors. It was Duchamp changing form with a length of driftwood-
who applied the word “mobile” to all of like painted wood, poised to balance at
Calder’s works that moved, whether by the tip of its base, called Requin et Baleine
crank, motor, or air currents; Jean Arp (c. 1933; Centre Pompidou, Paris). And
termed the stationary works, by contrast, in Cône d’ébène (fig. 9) we see not only
“stabiles.” Calder’s abstract sculptures the elements of Calder’s majestic, isolated,
were well received by his contemporaries and fully suspended airborne mobiles,
and he became part of the international but also the intuitive template for those
artists group Abstraction-Création, whose works that would follow in the next four
membership included Mondrian, Arp, decades—temporal, performative, always
and Jean Hélion. in flux, a language of form that would
be definitively and singularly his. With
this space-defining yet always changing
Balance, Flight, and work—its suspended geometric forms
the Birth of the Mobile as well as a biomorophic abstraction of
a bird’s head—Calder had “arrived,”
Though the idea of movement had been defining his own universe, and in so doing
explored pictorially by the Futurists inventing a new kind of sculpture.
and famously painted by Duchamp in Calder and Louisa decided to return
his Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) to the United States in 1933. The move
(1912; Philadelphia Museum of Art), and was prompted by the rise of Fascism
the concept of incorporating movement in Europe as well as personal reasons,
in artworks had been investigated by for Louisa had suffered a miscarriage.
the Russian Constructivists, it would be They purchased a farm in Roxbury,
Calder who consistently integrated physi- Connecticut, and within a year Calder
cal movement into his sculpture, creating exhibited in a group show at the Berkshire
a new “category” of art, the “mobile.” Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Within a year of completing his Circus The museum acquired two of the
in 1931, Calder explored balance, flight, motorized works, the first Calder works
and movement in new ways in drawings to enter an American museum collection.
and sculptures. In a 1931–33 series of
drawings, organic forms appear weight-
less, suspended in space. Calder’s earliest Coda
documented ceiling-suspended mobile,
Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere (1932– The Calders returned to Europe in 1937
33; Calder Foundation, New York), is a for an extended stay. While in Paris,
percussive instrument that when “played” Calder created a work for the Spanish Fig. 8. Half-circle, Quarter-circle, and Sphere, 1932. Metal rod, wire, and painted metal on painted wood base with motor,
76 5/8 x 35 1/2 x 25 in. (194.6 x 90.2 x 63.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;
creates sounds resonant of the composi- Republican Pavilion at the 1937 World’s purchase, with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc. 69.258
tions of his friend Varèse, who liked to sit Fair. His Mercury Fountain, which was
in Calder’s studio while he worked. As exhibited in a courtyard with Picasso’s
Guernica, was a gesture of solidarity attempt to obtain control of the town’s
with artists opposed to the nationalist valuable assets.
forces of Francisco Franco. Calder’s Calder exhibited again in Paris
fountain flowed with mercury from the just after the war, in 1946, and again in
mines of Almadèn and contained a wire 1953, when the family took a year-long
element with the city’s name flagged at is sojourn in France. That year the Calders
top. Both the name of the town and the acquired a home in Saché, near Tours,
mercury were symbols of anti-Franco and he and Louisa divided their time
resistance: Almadèn, the site of one of between France and the United States for
the world’s largest deposits of mercury, the rest of their lives. The home with its
was the location of a bloody battle studio is now the site of a residency
between the republican resistance and program for contemporary artists.
Franco’s troops, who laid siege in an

Joan Simon
Whitney Museum of American Art

1. Margaret Calder Hayes, Three Alexander Calders: A Family Memoir (Middlebury, VT: Paul S. Eriksson, 1977), 115.
2. Alexander Calder and Jean Davidson, An Autobiography with Pictures (New York: Pantheon Books, 1966), 51.
3. Alexander S.C. Rower, “Chronology,” Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–1933, exh. cat. (New York and Paris:
Whitney Museum of American Art and Centre Pompidou, 2008), 267–68.
4. Alexander Calder, letter to Jules Pascin, January-February 1929. Archives, Calder Foundation, New York.
5. Calder, Autobiography, 76.
6. Alexander Calder, letter to his parents, November 12, 1926. Archives, Calder Foundation, New York.
7. Tyler Stovall, Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 72.
8. Calder, Autobiography, 80.
9. Hayes, Three Alexander Calders, 78.
10. Alice Prin, “By ‘Kiki’—Queen of the Paris Artists’ Studios.” Undated clipping from unknown publication,
Alexander Calder Scrapbook, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
11. Calder, An Autobiography with Pictures, 113.
12. Ibid.

Photo credits: fig. 1: photograph by Jerry L. Thompson; figs. 3 and 5: photograph by Sheldan C. Collins © Whitney
Museum of American Art; fig. 7: photograph by David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York;
fig 8: photograph by Jerry L. Thompson © Whitney Museum of American Art.

Alexander Calder, Calder’s Circus, 1926–31. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art,
New York; purchase, with funds from a public fundraising campaign in May 1982. One half the funds were contributed
by the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust. Additional major donations were given by The Lauder Foundation;
the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc.; the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc.; an anonymous donor; The T.M.
Evans Foundation, Inc.; MacAndrews & Forbes Group, Incorporated; the DeWitt Wallace Fund, Inc.; Martin and
Agneta Gruss; Anne Phillips; Mr. and Mrs. Laurance S. Rockefeller; the Simon Foundation, Inc.; Marylou Whitney;
Bankers Trust Company; Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth N. Dayton; Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz; Irvin and Kenneth Feld; Flora
Whitney Miller. More than five hundred individuals from twenty-six states and abroad also contributed to the campaign.

All works by Alexander Calder are © 2008 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Fig. 9. Cône d’ébène, 1933. Wood, rod, wire, and paint, 106 x 55 x 24 in. (269.2 x 139.7 x 61 cm). © Whitney Museum of American Art 2008
Calder Foundation, New York
Objective Suspense: WhitneyKids at the Circus
Conceived and performed Ninth Annual Free Family Day
by Colin Gee Saturday, October 25 10 am–2 pm
A Whitney Live Commission Kids and families are invited to discover
Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-
Between October 2008 and 1933. March in a circus parade with the
February 2009 Colin Gee will appear Hungry March Band. Chat with artist
and perform unannounced in the Corin Hewitt as he works on a constantly
Calder’s Circus gallery. evolving installation in the Lobby Gallery.
In conjunction with Alexander Calder: Marvel as Colin Gee, former Cirque du
The Paris Years, 1926–1933, theater Soleil principal clown, performs “Objec-
artist Colin Gee creates intimate tive Suspense.” Draw on paper and in
performance experiences inspired by space. And mingle with Big Apple Circus
Calder’s innovative ideas of movement performers.
and love of the space of the circus. With
Calder’s Circus nearby, Gee engages
exhibition visitors one or two at a time,
using eye contact, rhythm, play, and
Open Studio:
stillness. Though no one but the artist Conserving Calder
could animate Calder’s Circus—an early Thursday, October 30 at 7 pm
example of performance art—Gee’s
Calder’s Circus (1926–31) is one of the
surprise interventions, using ordinary
Whitney’s most beloved artworks and
materials of his own devising, charge the
a seminal piece in Alexander Calder’s
atmosphere of the gallery with parallel
oeuvre. Eleonora Nagy, a conservator
senses of suspense and animation.
specializing in modern and contemporary
sculpture who is working with the Circus,
speaks about her techniques and approach
Open Studio: to conserving the work.
Line Takes Flight
This exhibition was organized by the
Friday, November 14 at 3 pm Whitney Museum of American Art, New York,
Thursday, January 8 at 2 pm and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Friday, January 30 at 3 pm
Hear Colin Gee explain his process, Sponsored by
method, and performance technique.
The exhibition and catalogue are made possible
through a generous grant from the Terra Foundation
for American Art.

Additional support is provided by The Brown
Foundation, Inc., Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen,
Faith and Philip Geier, The Florence Gould Foundation,
The Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation, The Lipman
Family Foundation, Julie and William Obering,
Dathel and Tommy Coleman, and The Philip A. and
Lynn Straus Foundation.

Opening events are sponsored by