It’s definitely not before time that an institution rightly acclaimed around the world for showcasing modern art, London’s Tate Modern gallery, should celebrate Alexander Calder’s revolutionary role in the modernism movement with an exhibition dedicated to the man and his work. Now, while ‘Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture’ (20 November 2015–3 April 2016) most prominently features the artist’s mobile creations, you shouldn’t worry because it most definitely doesn’t short-change the visitor. For these creations, mostly made from colourful plates of steel and wire, are delightfully vibrant, captivating, wonderful works of art that seem to like nothing more than to dance in the air.
And, if you’re yet to step inside the Tate Modern, then this exhibition will give you the ideal opportunity to discover this magnificent space devoted to some of the best and most dynamic art ever created. To be found on the South Bank in the starkly cavernous former Bankside Power Station, the gallery’s home was built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott back in 1947 and fulfilled its destiny as the Tate Modern to great fanfare and equally admirable acclaim at the turn of the millennium. It’s seen millions of people view its wares since then – so isn’t it about time you joined the throng and catch the renowned Alexander Calder’s mobile marvels?
The first major retrospective for the legendary, revolutionary artist, ‘Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture’ brings together many of his mobiles from around the world –in addition to including his theatre, music dance, and film collaborations. A fascinating day or evening for any visitor to London, surely, this Alexander Calder exhibition would also be a high priority for any art lover staying in the UK capital, wherever they’re based in the city – whether that’s one of the luxury hotels in West End London or elsewhere.
But don’t merely take this blogger’s word for it; the UK press have been universalin their praise for the exhibit. London’s Evening Standard gave it a full five stars, saying that Calder ‘forced the public to rethink what sculpture was’, while The Spectator magazine suggested that ‘Calder’s aerial sculptures are unquestionably beautiful: delicately balanced arrangements of forms like fluttering leaves, subatomic particles or celestial bodies, suspended from the lightest possible cat’s cradle of wire’. The Guardian has called the exhibition ‘a surprise and a delight’; The Times ‘entrancing’ and The Daily Telegraph an ‘exhilarating novelty’. Finally, the Financial Times declared it Britain’s ‘happiest exhibition’, a ringing endorsement of Calder and the showcase if any there were one.
American-born, Alexander Calder trained as an engineer before setting sail for Paris in the 1920s. By 1931, he had invented the mobile; a term coined by his friend and fellow artist Marcel Duchamp to describe the delicate sculptures Calder had created to move of their own accord – and yes, this is effectively the same mobile that hangs above the cots of babies to soothe and beguile them. He created and experimented for the next 40 years, his artistic efforts lendingthe fourth dimension to sculpture and finally sating the avant-garde’s obsession with movement.Now looked upon as maybe the earliest artworks to deliberately depart from the confines of art as static objects, Calder’s kinetic sculptures are unique indeed.
And yet, so talented was the artist that he also dabbled in giant sculptures (‘stabiles’), some of which graced the entrances of the likes of the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, the Sears Tower in Chicago and the fateful World Trade Center in New York City, in addition to designing theatre sets, pumping out gouache paintings and a vast array of jewellery. In fact, so prolific was he somehow he also found the time to paintan entire full-sized airliner.
Venue: Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Transport: Southwark station or Blackfriars station (Tube)/ Waterloo station or Blackfriars station (National rail)
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm; Friday 10am-10pm (last admission 45 minutes before closing)