Calder Smartphone Tour: Constellation with Red Knife

With his typical artistic materials in short supply at the height of World War II, Alexander Calder sought out alternatives. His resourcefulness led to the debut of an important series of carved wood and wire forms in 1943.

In 1943, James Johnson Sweeney and Marcel Duchamp, who were in the midst of curating a major retrospective of Calder’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, proposed calling these new sculptural works ‘Constellations.’

“[The Constellations] had a suggestion of some kind of cosmic nuclear gases—which I won’t try to explain,” Calder once noted. “I was interested in the extremely delicate, open composition.”

Gaze upon Calder’s Constellation with Red Knife by visiting Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. Then, tune in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour to learn more about the artist’s universe of constellations—along with his passion for woodcarving—via our SoundCloud.

Constellation with Red Knife, 1943

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Constellation with Red Knife is a singular work in this exhibition that really highlights the assemblage of carved wooden forms.  

NARRATOR: José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: As a youth, Calder was experienced with carving with wood, and it’s a material that actually is found in a lot of his sculptural practice.  

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He was fascinated by not just the look of the wood, but the particular kind of grain of the wood, the way a grain would be straight or wavy and have characteristics.

NARRATOR: Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: The central object, which is the tallest piece of wood in the composition, is kind of the shape of a palette knife like a painter might use to mix paint.

NARRATOR: The work is one of a series called Constellations. The name didn’t come from Calder himself but from the artist Marcel Duchamp, and the curator James Johnson Sweeney. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder referred to them as an open form composition like some kind of nuclear gases, and then he said, “But I won’t try to explain.” 

NARRATOR: The work may reflect Calder’s interest in time and space, but it is important to note that he wasn’t concerned with the observable universe (the sun, moon, earth, etc.). Rather, he was describing a universe. Or rather, the universal—an exploration of the unifying force posited by physicists today as string theory. 

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: When one thinks about constellations, there is an assumption that this is a specific reference to planets and stars and elements in our known universe. However, Calder’s really interested in a universe, his universe. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: They are objects tied together with these wire lines, existing in space in three dimensions.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of “Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection,” Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Yellow Stalk With Stone

“Since the beginning of my work in abstract art, and even though it was not obvious at that time, I felt that there was no better model for me to work from than the Universe. Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space, surrounded by vivid clouds and tides, currents of air, viscosities and fragrances—in their utmost variety and disparity.”

– Alexander Calder

Yellow Stalk with Stone is a prime example of Calder’s experimental approach to sculpture, embracing both the transcendent and the ordinary. During the artist’s lifetime, the artwork was exhibited globally with notable stops at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Brazil, and the Museo de Bellas Artes in Venezuela.

Despite its global adventures, the standing mobile highlights the important role of found objects in Calder’s oeuvre. Its titular stone—found by the artist on a walking meditation around his property in Roxbury, Connecticut—invites a dialogue between found, manipulated, and artificial materials in art.

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection closes Sunday, August 4 at SAM! Don’t miss your chance to see over 45 of the iconic American artist’s renowned works (including Yellow Stalk with Stone) and explore the exhibition’s free smartphone tour from the museum’s galleries. Plus, you can listen to all 16 stops of the tour on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Yellow Stalk with Stone, 1953

NARRATOR: Calder was a truly international artist. During his lifetime, this work was exhibited multiple times, including in Brazil, New York, and Venezuela. But the stone referred to in the title came from close to home; he picked it up near his studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. 

The stone creates a dialogue with the man-made elements of the sculpture. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder’s process of creation and composition was very intuitive. It was in the moment. It was in the spirit of the moment. It wasn’t something that was planned. He didn’t make diagrammatic plans for creating his sculptures.

NARRATOR: It’s a way of working that resonates with artist Kennedy Yanko.  

KENNEDY YANKO: He’s clearly thinking in a way where he needs to explore something, where he needs to understand something in his own way, to his own hand. Maybe he was in the studio, and he just had the stone and just went and placed it on there or he had been thinking about it for a while and then placed it on there, and that moment, that decision is what transforms the piece into what you wanted it to be.

NARRATOR: Found objects have an important role in Calder’s work. José Diaz.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: I really hope that visitors will walk through this exhibition and see Calder through an ecological lens. He was certainly resourceful—you’ll notice that there’s works that incorporate wood, rocks, bits of material, or discarded objects—but also the fact that Calder could make art from the most ordinary materials and make something so complex, yet so beautiful.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Animated Coat Hanger

A material as humble and mundane as wire proved inspiring for Alexander Calder, who used it to create three-dimensional line drawings. During the late 1920s, he sculpted a range of wire acrobats, performers, animals, and portraits of famed figures of the day, including Fernand Léger, Josephine Baker, and Joan Miró.

These ‘drawings in space’ enthralled the international avant-garde for their projected shadows, captured voids, and challenged perceptions. His radical objects not only upended space through their transparent volumes, but also presented the reality of motion through vibrating wire lines and the inclusion of actual moving parts. As a result of these works, Calder was lauded as Le roi du fil de fer, or the king of wire.

Although intimate in size, Animated Coat Hanger speaks volumes about Calder’s ingenuity and resourcefulness with wire. The work’s title implies that a coat hanger was used to sculpt the profiled subject, but that is not the case. Perhaps the title is a nod to the artists from the Dada movement, who used the choice of selection to create readymades from preexisting common objects, such as hangers.

Tune in to the ninth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz and New York-based artist Kennedy Yanko share their perspectives on this simple yet surprising wire sculpture. Explore all 16 stops of the audio tour now via our SoundCloud or in our galleries by scanning the QR code next to select artworks on view.

Animated Coat Hanger, 1927

NARRATOR: Wire sculpture was Calder’s first great invention. He removed mass from sculpture and introduced transparency as well as gentle movement through vibration.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Animated Coat Hanger is really special to this exhibition.

NARRATOR: Curator José Diaz.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: This particular work is from 1927 which is an example of one of the earliest works in the show. Calder had been so innovative with wire, so much so that we use the term drawing in space.

NARRATOR: Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: The fact that he would carry pliers in his pocket and just decide to start drawing is such a true thing to me, the idea of choosing a medium to represent drawing.  

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: But what’s really beautiful about it is the simplicity. You’ll notice the wooden base, which looks like it could have been a discarded material. You’ll notice the figurative aspect of it, sort of the profile of an individual.

KENNEDY YANKO: It’s surprising, and it’s intriguing, and somehow it’s barely there, but when you take a closer look at it, the sensibility, the delicacy, the gesture, the breasts, the face, how can a line have so much effect and so much life within it? So, I think that it’s just a gesture to like how powerful the way that the eyes can read something, and the way that the mind can fill the rest of the space. And I think with Calder’s work there’s always opportunity for that. He knows that the mind will always fill the blank spaces and always complete what needs to be there.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Circus-Themed Prints

Throughout the 1920s, Alexander Calder worked as an illustrator for the National Police Gazette. On one assignment, Calder was tasked with visiting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus life. The experience led to a newfound interest for the circus.

A series of seven lithographs on view in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM demonstrate Calder’s lifelong fascination with the circus. Originally drawn in 1931–32, the prints were published in New York in 1964 as part of an unbound portfolio reproducing the artist’s circus scenes. The portfolio, titled Calder’s Circus, includes a signature page by Cleve Gray and a reproduction of a letter from Joan Miró. Notably, the original line drawings were made during a time of transition for the artist: after his performative Cirque Calder (1926–31) and during his exploration of purely abstract forms—as well as voids and volumes—in his mobiles and stabiles.

On the eleventh stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz explains why Calder considered the circus to be a ‘highly sophisticated form of entertainment’ and shares details of the artist’s famous Cirque Calder. Listen at any time via our SoundCloud or, if you’re in SAM’s galleries, scan the QR codes next to select artworks on view to access the tour.

Group of Circus-Themed Prints, 1931–32, 1964

NARRATOR: These offset lithographs date from 1964; but they’re based on drawings that Calder made as a young man. 

During the 1920s, Calder took a job illustrating for the National Police Gazette. They sent him to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus scenes. The circus became a lifelong interest for Calder. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: During Calder’s youth, the circus was a great point of inspiration for him. This was a highly sophisticated form of entertainment. It had a global appeal. It included performative aspects—larger than life theatricality. It included actors, performers, and animals. And he illustrated this. He even went on to make his Cirque Calder, which was his own representation of a performative, sculptural circus that he himself was sort of the ringmaster of.  

NARRATOR: The Cirque Calder dates from after Calder’s move to Paris in 1926. It was a complex and unique body of art, and included tiny performers, animals and props such as he’d observed on his sketching trips to the circus. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Cirque Calder was a reenacted performative circus made of small figurines and design sets that mimic the circus. The Cirque Calder was something that was small enough to fit in one suitcase and eventually five, and Calder would perform the Cirque Calder across the Atlantic from Paris to New York. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Little Yellow Panel

Although it was never publicly exhibited in his lifetime, Little Yellow Panel exemplifies Alexander Calder’s desire to create “paintings in motion.” This exotic wall sculpture’s origin can actually be traced to a significant moment in Calder’s development that inspired him to experiment with movement: his visit to the studio of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian in October 1930.

The artist recalled being impressed not by Mondrian’s paintings but by the environmental space of his studio: “Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: ‘No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.’” 

In the wake of his visit, Calder began to work in the abstract. Beginning the following year, he explored the frontal formality of painting in three dimensions but with actual motion—elements in oscillation—usually by way of simple motors. Eventually, he experimented more freely with the possibilities of movement, suspending elements to be activated by air within wood frames or in front of panels made of painted plywood. Little Yellow Panel showcases how Calder ingeniously blurred the lines between painting and sculpture to reflect a choreography of nonobjective imagery.

Supplement your visit to Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM and learn more about Little Yellow Panel by tuning in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Access it now on our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to select works on view when exploring the museum’s galleries.

Little Yellow Panel, ca. 1936

NARRATOR: Little Yellow Panel is part of a series of works from the mid-1930s that explored the concept of ‘paintings in motion.’ The work blurs the lines between painting and sculpture: viewed from the front, its various elements appear to be positioned against a defined yellow background. But these elements can be moved around—so the composition changes. Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: What I like about it is that it’s perfect. It’s a perfect piece. Where the colors show up: they’re placed perfectly with just the right amount of randomness. It’s ironic. It’s calling upon all these different things. It captures, you know, an entrance into a more minimal thought of color and form. And it also holds his curiosity. And this really feels kind of like a pivotal moment of clarity.

NARRATOR: This was an intense period of innovation for Calder. In 1930, he visited the Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian. Calder was excited by the way the older artist had arranged his studio: Mondrian had pinned rectangles of colored cardboard to the walls, as he experimented with different compositions. For Calder, the whole space became an installation.

Following this visit, he made his first wholly abstract compositions. It was also at this time that he invented the kinetic sculptures we know as mobiles. It was his friend the French artist Marcel Duchamp who suggested the term. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He suggested it because in French the word mobile: it refers not only to motion, but it also means your motivation or your motive—Calder’s motivation, Calder’s motions, Calder’s motives. It was like that. It was a pun.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Photos

By the 1950s, Alexander Calder had established himself as an internationally renowned artist. Although the public perceived him as a social butterfly, he preferred to work in his Roxbury, Connecticut studio alone and in silence. Few outsiders were granted access to the artist’s workspace. Among them, however, was acclaimed photojournalist and filmmaker Gordon Parks.

Parks visited Calder in his home and studio in 1952 on assignment for Life magazine. That year, Calder represented the United States at the 26th Venice Biennale, an international exposition that highlights global artistic achievements. This photograph, featuring a mobile now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is one of several images that were taken by Parks for the August 25, 1952, issue of the magazine. The accompanying story celebrated Calder’s winning of the biennale’s grand prize for sculpture.

Learn more about this work and two other photographs of Calder in his studio by tuning in to the seventh stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. The full tour is available to explore on your own time via our SoundCloud or in our galleries by scanning the QR code next to select works in the exhibition.

Group of Photos: Calder Installing Gamma (1947), Alexander Calder, Roxbury Ct. (1957), and Alexander Calder (1952)

NARRATOR: These three photographs offer an intimate glimpse of Calder at work. 

Let’s focus on the image to the far right of the group. It was taken by the important photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks in 1952. That year, Calder had been selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Venice Biennale is sort of the Olympics of the art world where artists are chosen to represent their countries, and Calder actually won the Grand Prize that year.

This photo was taken for the August 25, 1952, issue of Life magazine and features Calder not installing an exhibition at the Venice Biennale but actually in his studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. This was a very private space, and for Life magazine—or really the American public—to see the artist behind the scenes would have been really captivating at the time.

NARRATOR: For artist Kennedy Yanko, the photographs offer a different perspective on the work.

KENNEDY YANKO: When you typically see Calder’s work, you’re looking up and you’re looking around. So your entire physical gesture and exploration of it changes. But you can see here how different it is when he’s so close to it and how he’s experienced it in the making. He’s living within the work, and he’s living within the sculpture, and I think that that’s what allowed all of these monumental sculptures to kind of continue to carry us. That sense of life and that sense of curiosity is how deeply immersed and present he was inside of the pieces.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Bougainvillier

In the late 1940s, Alexander Calder developed sophisticated sculptures with pierced elements and interchanging relationships, the largest and most resolved of which is Bougainvillier. The construction of this vibrant masterpiece includes three wispy tendrils with mobile bursts, the lowermost of which is suspended by a handmade chain. Although it derives its title from the French word for the bougainvillea plant, this work—the most elegant and commanding sculpture on view in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM—is non-objective.

Calder’s choices for titles, whether in English or French, are not assets for artistic interpretation. He was known to intuitively name his sculptures after they were created, based on “some vague association,” as he said. “Sometimes it’s the whole thing that suggests a title to me, sometimes it’s just a detail.”

Bougainvillier made its public debut on the heels of Jean-Paul Sartre’s seminal 1946 essay, “Les Mobiles de Calder,” written by the French philosopher for the artist’s show at Galerie Louis Carré, Paris. Sartre’s words anticipated the complex environment created by a work like Bougainvillier, with its gestural lines projecting into unpredictable spaces:

“The forces at work are too numerous and complicated for any human mind, even that of their creator, to be able to foresee all their combinations. For each [mobile] Calder establishes a general fated course of movement, then abandons them to it: time, sun, heat, and wind will determine each particular dance. Thus the object is always midway between the servility of the statue and the independence of natural events.”

Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower shares more excerpts from Sartre’s essay in the tenth stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion. Tune in now via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to Bougainvillier in the exhibition’s galleries.

Bougainvillier, 1947

NARRATOR: Bougainvillier is one of the works in the Shirley Collection most frequently requested for exhibitions. It dates from 1947, a period when Calder was focusing on standing mobiles. Calder Foundation President Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: The frilly lines, these wires that come out in space—even when they’re not active, you feel a tremendous sense of movement through space—are why he called it Bougainvillier. His process of titling, of course: it wasn’t that he saw a Bougainvillea vine with the beautiful purple leaves and blossoms. He made a sculpture and then, looking back in retrospect, said it’s kind of the tendrils of a line, I’ll call it Bougainvillier

And the use of the title is not any kind of access into understanding or meaning of a work. You should really consider that the work has no meaning. But then you have to bring yourself forward and contribute and participate with the work in a way that the meaning is created. Calder always anticipated that the viewer was going to have an active role in not just experiencing his work, but in the viewer’s own interpretation.

NARRATOR: The year before Bougainvillier was made, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre explored these ideas in a seminal essay on Calder. Sartre captures the sense of what it’s like to experience a Calder sculpture. As he put it:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: “Each of its twists and turns is an inspiration of the moment. In it you can discern the theme composed by its maker, but the mobile weaves a thousand variations on it. It is a little hot jazz tune, unique and ephemeral, like the sky, like the morning. If you miss it, it’s lost forever.”

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong

“You have weight, form, size, color, motion and then you have noise.”

– Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder’s mobiles are recognized for their subtle movements, but their innovative use of sound is lesser known. Of over 22,000 artworks attributed to Calder, scholars have identified dozens of sound-producing mobiles. Beginning in the 1930s, Calder used sound in his abstract objects as a means to enhance ‘disparity’ within a composition. His most recognizable sonorous objects feature gongs, which he developed in earnest in the 1940s and 1950s.

Following its creation in 1948, Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong hung in the artist’s Roxbury studio, where incoming winds from the Connecticut countryside would ‘compose’ an unpredictable musical backdrop as he worked. A glimpse into this experience is offered in the Herbert Matter film Works of Calder (1950), with music by John Cage, in which elements of Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong slice through space. In the following decade, the mobile was presented as part of Philadelphia Collects 20th Century at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before being acquired by the Shirley family in 1999.

Sound objects like Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong express the possibilities that Marcel Duchamp recognized in Calder’s mobiles in 1949: “The symphony is complete when color and sound join in and call on all our senses to follow the unwritten score. Pure joie de vivre. The art of Calder is the sublimation of a tree in the wind.”

Find out if you can hear the subtle ‘ding’ of Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong by visiting Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. Until then, you can learn more about this work from SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz and Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower by tuning in to the eighth stop on the exhibition’s free smartphone tour via our SoundCloud.

Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong, 1948

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: One of the joys about Calder’s work is that one must be prepared for the unexpected…

NARRATOR: José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: … whether you visit the exhibition and you see objects moving—or if you hear sounds. And so this is a wonderful example of one of Calder’s works that actually contains sound.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: This particular work is one of my favorite works in the Shirley Collection.

NARRATOR: Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Every object has an extraordinary shape except for the white disc—which, the white disc has the kind of purpose of being almost a rudder to drive the hammer, which is this red coil that strikes the gong. Even just people circumnavigating a gallery will activate the mobile, and it will occasionally give a little bright, you know, ‘ding.’

NARRATOR: Calder’s use of sound can be related to his love of music. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder was quite obsessed with music. He loved to dance. He was a famous dancer actually. If he was at a party, he would dance with a partner and then wear them out completely and then choose another partner and wear that person out completely. Which I witnessed as a young boy, of course, but much more famously was in the ‘20s and the ‘30s and ‘40s when he was out doing such things, you know.

NARRATOR: Here, the musical vibration is a way of drawing us into the work.  

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: There is a possibility it may never make sound during its presentation at the Seattle Art Museum, but the moment of surprise awaits.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Case of Small Mobiles

It is often assumed that Alexander Calder began experimenting with scale by making small, intimate sculptures before eventually scaling up to monumental commissions, such as The Eagle (1970), on view at the Olympic Sculpture Park. This assumption, however, is incorrect.

Calder’s understanding of scale began in his childhood when he observed his father managing sculpture projects (including the enlargement of monuments from models) for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Throughout his career, Calder worked in all sizes and scales, with a non-linear progression that was daring and fluid. Some of his small-scale works were made as maquettes for colossal objects. Others, including this collection of standing mobiles, were of a different breed, with many being constructed as gifts for family and friends.

In the sixth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz compares the artistry between Calder’s monumental and miniature sculptures. Tune in to this recording and many more via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR codes next to select works in the exhibition’s galleries.

Haven’t visited Calder: In Motion yet? Check out visitsam.org/tickets to plan your next visit to SAM and get an up-close look at the intricate details of Alexander Calder’s tiniest sculptures.

Case of Small Mobiles: Untitled (1952), Black, White, Yellow and Brass on Red (1959), Untitled (1947), Two White Dots (1973)

NARRATOR: We often associate Calder with monumental sculpture. But he also worked on a small, delicate scale throughout his career. This case displays a grouping of some of Calder’s small-scale works. Calder was known for making works like these as gifts. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: There’s a famous story of Calder making small works encased in a cigar box for his wife, and so his wife, Louisa, can travel with these. She can display them as she saw fit. She can curate them within her own setting. But it’s also the small works’ complexity.

So, if you look at this case, you’ll notice that the small mobiles are just as detailed. You’ll notice that they’re balanced. You’ll notice that the use of metal is done with such delicacy that it has just as much attention as Calder would focus on for his larger-scaled works. You also can get a sense of the colors. The palettes are very similar to Calder’s larger scaled works. You’ll notice shapes that are similar to other large-scale works. But it’s often because Calder is working within an aesthetic that can really work within scale. And Calder was very conscious when he played with scale because it allowed him to also explore the way that these stabiles and mobiles could function in a setting, regardless of how big they are.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Red Curly Tail

In 1933, Alexander Calder and his wife, Louisa, relocated to the United States from Paris, France, and purchased a farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. The property was large enough to allow the artist to work on an elevated scale and an old icehouse was transformed into his new studio. 

The following summer, Calder completed his first collection of outdoor works, which ranged in height from five to nine feet. Working larger proved to be expensive and experimental for the artist, so he began making models—or maquettes—in 1936 from which he could enlarge his final sculpture. 

The last two decades of Calder’s life were very successful, and he received multiple high-profile commissions for outdoor sculptures. Red Curly Tail, previously displayed on the lawn of the Shirley family home is a standing mobile that evokes a sense of wonder. Other significant works Calder created during this period include El Sol Rojo for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and The Eagle (1971), now on view at the Olympic Sculpture Park on Seattle’s waterfront.

Tune in to the fifth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz discuss the large size of Red Curly Tail and Calder’s lifelong fascination with scale. All 16 stops of the audio tour are available on our SoundCloud or via the QR codes adjacent to select works in the exhibition’s galleries. Get your tickets to experience all twelve feet of this monumental sculpture at SAM today!

Red Curly Tail, 1970

NARRATOR: Calder had started working on large outdoor sculptures in the 1930s, after he and his wife Louisa moved from Paris to a farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. Red Curly Tail dates from 1970—the last decade of his life. It’s essentially a stabile with a mobile element on top, known as a standing mobile. Curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Red Curly Tail is a work that originally would have been shown outdoors, but it also has the… I guess the ambiguity or the ability to be shown inside as a freestanding sculpture without a natural environment around it but actually within other Calder works in this exhibition.

This particular work sort of peeks at you, and you have to approach it, and as you approach it you notice its bold red base. You notice the mobile aspects on top. It’s got this anthropomorphic tail that sort of hints at its quality of being something from nature, but it’s completely abstract as well.

It does give you a sense of scale because when you look at it, you have to also look left, right, and look above and realize, wow, I’m face to face with one of Calder’s outdoor works that actually plays with the sense of scale, especially when a human approaches it. It does take the subtlest air movements to make a Calder mobile move or to sway. However, the outdoor works would require massive gusts of wind. I don’t expect it to shuffle much, but I do think that you’ll always see it in a different way, and that’s really one of the incredible things about this exhibition.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Fish

“I feel that the artist should go about his work simply, with great respect for his materials. Simplicity of equipment and an adventurous spirit in attacking the unfamiliar or unknown are apt to result in a primitive and vigorous art. Somehow the primitive is usually much stronger than art in which technique and flourish abound.”

– Alexander Calder, À Propos of Measuring a Mobile

With sheet metal in short supply during World War II, Alexander Calder turned to working with bits of wood, shattered glass, ceramics, tins, and other discarded objects he collected on his farm in Roxbury, Connecticut. Between the 1940s and 1950s, he used these materials to make a dozen hanging fish. Their bodies were constructed of painted rods that were  interlaced with wires to mimic scales. In each of the resulting voids, he suspended shards of glass, porcelain, and other found materials that dazzled when hit by light.

Fishnoted as John Shirley’s favorite of Calder’s works in his collection—is considered to be the earliest example of the artist’s fish mobiles. 

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection is now on view at SAM! Scan the in-gallery QR code beside Fish on your next visit to SAM to access additional information about this work as part of the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Or, explore all 16 stops of the audio tour on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Fish, 1942

NARRATOR: Calder made a dozen hanging fish over the 1940s and 50s. This example, dating from 1942, seems to be the first of the group. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: One of the unusual things about this one compared to all the others is that there are a lot of bits of mirror; and we know about a mirror that was a bistro mirror that Calder had that got broken in a fire and he repurposed pieces of that. And you see them here: you see the kind of scraped away silvering on the glass in some of the pieces. So, this one really reflects a lot of light: doesn’t just transmute the light like a stained-glass window, like many of the fish, but actually transmutes and reflects at the same time. 

NARRATOR: Exhibition curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The lighting creates a shadow, actually a colorful shadow that’s also unexpected within the space, and this is something that gives you a new take on Calder, or even an extension of the sculpture itself, as sculpture as shadow.

NARRATOR: The use of a broken mirror may say something about the time this mobile was made. During the Second World War, Calder felt that sheet metal should be reserved for the war effort; instead, he turned to discarded materials. One useful source was a dump near his studio in Connecticut.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He dug out this mound and found many bits of colored glass and assortments of bits of metal and pieces that he started to incorporate as kind of enticing objects in sculpture. Clearly this Fish has some of those and other things. You can see that there’s a piece of Chinese porcelain and some other bits of pottery from sources unknown.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Introduction to the SAM Exhibition

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection is now on view at SAM! As part of this SAM-exclusive exhibition, we’ve developed a free smartphone tour featuring additional insight on Calder’s life, legacy, and artistic career.

Composed of 15 stops, the tour includes interviews with collector Jon Shirley, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz, sculptor Kennedy Yanko, and Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower, as they share their educational and personal thoughts on artworks including Fish (1942), Toile d’araignée (1965), Bougainvillier (1947), Red Curly Tail (1970), and many more of the artist’s most iconic works.

Tune in to the tour’s introductory stop now to get acquainted with the artists, scholars, curators, and admirers who contributed to this auditory experience. Then, explore all 15 stops in the audio tour of Calder: In Motion by scanning the QR code next to select artworks in the exhibition or on your own time via our SoundCloud

Introducing Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection

JON SHIRLEY: My name is Jon Shirley, and I am pleased to share with you Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. The works of Alexander Calder that you will see in these galleries have been collected over the past 35 years first with my late wife Mary and now with my wife Kim. Over those years we have found that living with Calder’s work has been a beautiful and uplifting experience. 

Alexander Calder was a great artist whose father and grandfather were both sculptors. In Paris in the late 1920s Calder invented a new world of sculpture—first by using just wire and then by creating abstract works of sheet metal, wood, and wire that moved. As you will see, this collection spans Calder’s art career from the 1920s until his death in 1976. The audio guide will discuss many different works that I love so please take the time to listen and learn about Calder the man and his art.

My family and I sincerely hope that you will find this visit a dynamic experience and that you return to the Seattle Art Museum for many years as we present ongoing exhibitions related to Calder and the artists inspired by Calder.

NARRATOR: The exhibition attempts to capture something of how the works were displayed in the Shirleys’ home – setting up a unique dialogue across the decades. Joining us for this encounter will be exhibition curator José Diaz… 

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: My name is José Diaz.

NARRATOR: …painter and sculptor Kennedy Yanko…

KENNEDY YANKO: Hi! My name is Kennedy Yanko.

NARRATOR: …and Calder Foundation President—and grandson of the artist—Alexander S. C. Rower. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Hi, I’m Alexander Rower. Everyone calls me Sandy.

NARRATOR: I hope you’ll enjoy your tour.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Muse/News: Museum Gifts, Unique Bonsai, and Emotional Maps

SAM News

Lee Carter for Artnet on Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM, sharing reflections from collectors Jon and Kim Shirley about Alexander Calder’s art and why they wanted to gift their collection to SAM.

“Ultimately, it was important to keep the Alexander Calder pieces together, all at SAM. ‘Museums are great public institutions,’ said Shirley. ‘For years we have lent our Calders to exhibitions in other parts of the country and around the world. It’s clear to me that museums are where they belong and we should work as hard as we can to make museums vital institutions.’”

The Stranger includes SAM Gallery’s Printing the PNW show on their list of “best bang for your buck” events. We can’t say it better than them:

“After peeping legendary Edo-period Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock prints, paintings, and illustrated books (yes, including Great Wave, plus a LEGO interpretation of it) on view at Seattle Art Museum, why not drop by SAM Gallery to scope out Japanese-inspired prints created by local artists?”

Local News

“Cinerama — ahem, SIFF Cinema Downtown — is back”: The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald reports from the reopened theater.

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis’s latest ArtSEA post bids farewell to Wier Harman, recommends Black Nativity at Intiman Theatre, and spotlights some solstice events. 

Here’s NW Asian Weekly on Irene Taylor’s new HBO documentary about a unique 82-year-old bonsai that lives at the Pacific Bonsai Museum.

“… its seeds were sent to Japanese American Juzaburo Furuzawa during his internment under Executive Order 9066 in World War II…The Furuzawa Pine gained international attention in February 2020 when it was stolen from the Pacific Bonsai Museum, only to be mysteriously returned less than 72 hours later.”

Inter/National News

Revisit “The Defining Art Events of 2023,” courtesy the editors of ARTnews.

The Art Newspaper offers this remembrance of sculptor Richard Hunt, who passed away at the age of 88. 

“A World Map With No National Borders and 1,642 Animals”: The New York Times’ Natasha Frost on cartographer Anton Thomas’s “Wild World.”

For Mr. Thomas, this equates to a kind of “emotional geography,” where features with greater emotional heft — the New York City skyline, say, or the Golden Gate Bridge — may take up more space. “There are animals the size of mountain ranges on my map,’ he said. ‘But you know what? The African lion should tower over Kilimanjaro, if we’re drawing an emotional map.””

And Finally

What is a solstice, anyway?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Interesting Pictures, Ritual Objects, and Girls in Windows

SAM News

Here’s Margo Vansynghel of the Seattle Times with arts recommendations for December, including Elizabeth Malaska: All Be Your Mirror. The solo show features tour-de-force paintings by the 2022 winner of SAM’s annual prize for Northwest artists, the Betty Bowen Award.

“Malaska’s brushwork is at once vigorous, detailed and patterned, then loose and almost abstract or even droopy and distorted. The result is beautiful, unsettling and varied — and paints a much more interesting picture.”

“A theatrical new Calder exhibition staged in Seattle”: Don’t miss Elena Goukassian’s take for The Art Newspaper on Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. She highlights the thoughtful curatorial choice to “frame his works as a delightfully subtle kind of performance.” ) She also mentions the playlist drawn from Calder’s own record collection.)

“These are all displayed in a newly configured gallery that features individual “stages” for the larger works, vitrines for the smaller ones and “overlook” balcony views—all with an eye towards spotlighting their theatrical nature.”

For the subscriber-only Airmail, Osman Can Yerebakan interviews the Shirleys and relays the story of the first time they heard Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong make a sound. (Are you patient enough to wait to hear it in the galleries?)

ICYMI! “Legendary Children Brought the House Down”: Jas Keimig and Susan Fried capture the magic for South Seattle Emerald.

Local News

It’s dark. Seattle Met helps with “Where to See Holiday Lights in Seattle.”

For her weekly ArtSEA post, Crosscut Brangien Davis features “art, film, and food to honor Native American Heritage Month.”

“Chehalis artist explores cultural appropriation of Native regalia”: Gayle Clemans for The Seattle Times on Selena Kearney: object/ritual, now on view at Solas Gallery.

“After shifting to a more conceptual art practice, Kearney has thought carefully about how much information to reveal in an image and how much to conceal. In this series, all of the photographs are taken in crisp detail with vivid color, as if they are beautiful documents of cheap, often offensive cultural relics.”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: “5 Massive Pop Culture Moments From 2023 That Remind Us of Renaissance Paintings.”

Via Artdaily: The first New York solo exhibition for Natalie Ball—featuring never-before-seen works—just opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Ball was the winner of SAM’s 2018 Betty Bowen Award and her work is now on view at SAM. 

David Segal for The New York Times on Girls in the Windows (1960) by Ormond Gigli, a photograph that people keep buying and buying.

“He’s working without an assignment because he wants to memorialize those buildings, which stand directly across the street from his home studio. What he doesn’t know is that the image will become one of the most collected photographs in the history of the medium.”

And Finally

Another video from the Calder Foundation archives: The first performance of Work in Progress at Teatro dell’Opera, 1967–68.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

A Monumental Gift Goes On View: Inside Calder: In Motion at SAM

“How can art be realized? Out of volumes, motion, spaces bounded by the great space, the universe.”

– Alexander Calder

This November, SAM begins a long-term commitment to Alexander Calder, the American artist celebrated for revolutionizing sculpture with his renowned mobiles and stabiles. Earlier this year, SAM announced the incredible gift of more than 45 seminal Calder artworks by longtime supporters Jon and Kim Shirley. Their magnificent collection—one of the most important private holdings of Calder’s art—is the result of 35 years of thoughtful collecting. 

Now on view at SAM, Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection thematically highlights pieces from every decade of Calder’s career, dating from the 1920s to the 1970s. The exhibition also includes examples of Calder’s works on paper and an oil painting, among other media, representing the expansiveness of his oeuvre. Sections devoted to his artistic experimentation, natural forces and dynamics, and the artist’s lasting contribution to modern art are also featured.

“As truly serious art must follow the greater laws, and not only appearances, I try to put all the elements in motion in my mobile sculptures. It is a matter of harmonizing these movements, thus arriving at a new possibility of beauty.”

– Alexander Calder

To accentuate the artist’s exploration of height, scale, and movement, the exhibition is installed in the museum’s double-height galleries—a unique space for large-scale works with several overlooks from the floor above. The exhibition design captures a sense of movement, with an S-shaped, curved wall that wraps around the iconic 22-foot-tall sculpture Red Curly Tail (1970) and divides the galleries into a series of vignettes illuminating the exhibition’s themes and highlighting the lyricism of Calder’s creations.

Elsewhere on view are the oil painting The Yellow Disc (1958), a medium that Calder engaged with throughout his career but is not nearly as well known as his sculpture; Untitled (Métaboles) (1969), a mobile the artist created as part of a stage set for a ballet; and Fish (1942). The latter, a significant work from a rare series of mobiles created during and after World War II when metal was scarce, is made of wire framing and found materials.

The central gallery traces Calder’s career, highlighting his achievements across the miniature and the monumental. The expansive Toile d’araignée (1965), an airy, monochromatic mobile hovers over several artworks, including the masterful standing mobile Bougainvillier (1947).

“That others grasp what I have in mind seems unessential, at least as long as they have something else in theirs.”

– Alexander Calder

The final gallery considers the artist’s legacy, with works that demonstrate Calder’s accomplishments throughout his most productive decades and his impact on the evolution of modern art. It includes Untitled (1936), Little Yellow Panel (ca. 1936), Jonah and the Whale (ca. 1940), Untitled (ca. 1942), Constellation with Red Knife (1943), Yellow Stalk with Stone (1953), and Squarish (1970). This gallery also serves as a bridge into the museum’s modern and contemporary galleries.

The Shirley family’s generous gift will also inspire public programs exploring Calder’s artistic practice. Events are planned for both the Seattle Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park and will include talks, tours, performances, art-making workshops, and a family-friendly festival—stay tuned for more details!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

This article first appeared in the October 2023 through January 2024 edition of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks!

Image: Bougainvillier, 1947, Alexander Calder, 1898-1976, sheet metal, rod, wire, lead, and paint, 78 x 82 x 54 in., Promised gift of Jon and Mary Shirley, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Nicholas Shirley.

SAM Leadership Update: Thank You, Amada

With deep gratitude and sincere appreciation, we bid farewell to Amada Cruz, SAM Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, after four years of leadership at the museum. 

Amada joined SAM in September 2019 and led the museum through what may be one of the most challenging periods in its 90 year history: the global COVID-19 pandemic and sudden closure of its three sites. Thanks to her tenacious leadership throughout this time the museum prioritized supporting its staff and created online experiences for the communities it serves to continue to engage with the museum. As the pandemic abated, her focus shifted to carefully reopen its sites to the public while maximizing the safety of both staff and visitors. SAM came through it stronger, with steady financial recovery, the return of audiences to its galleries and programs, and a renewed commitment to its mission to connect art to life.

Although the global pandemic was the undercurrent during much of Amada’s time at SAM, it did not define her tenure. During these unprecedented and complicated times, her achievements have been many. Under her leadership the museum ushered in many significant new initiatives and reached milestone moments including:  

  • In July 2020, the museum created a board-staff Equity Task Force to respond to the urgency of the moment and align around support for Black lives. This task force worked to establish a set of priorities across all departments and build a roadmap for the museum to be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive museum. In 2021, that task force became a board committee to shepherd these ongoing efforts. 
  • In August 2020, SAM’s first-ever Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion was identified. This executive role shapes the museum’s priorities, partnerships, communications strategies, and audience-engagement efforts to move SAM towards a more equitable future. 
  • SAM’s acquisitions strategy brought in even more works by Black, Indigenous, and artists of color as well as women into its global collection.
  • The transformation of SAM’s American art galleries, funded primarily by a $1 million grant from The Mellon Foundation. An unprecedented collaboration among SAM curators and staff, artists, and advisors from the Seattle community, the project deepened the museum’s commitment to inclusive exhibition-planning practices and debuted as American Art: The Stories We Carry in October 2022.
  • Two major collections of modern art and supporting funds came to the museum, transforming its already stellar holdings of modern art:
    • The Friday Foundation, celebrating the legacy of Seattle philanthropists and collectors Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis, gave 19 iconic works of Abstract Expressionist paintings and sculptures in 2021 as well as a total of $14.5 million to support various museum initiatives over the course of 2020-2021. The works went on view in 2021. The gift included the creation of The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Acquisition Fund for Global Contemporary Art.
    • And in April 2023, a gift of 48 major works by Alexander Calder was made by longtime museum supporters Jon and Kim Shirley. The gift of the Shirley Family Calder Collection is supported by a $10 million endowment and an annual financial commitment from the Shirley’s to support Calder-related exhibitions and research. The works will debut in November 2023 in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection.

“The Board of Trustees want to express our sincere gratitude to Amada for her leadership at SAM,” says Board Chair Constance Rice. “Amada’s achievements have been many. In addition to steering SAM successfully through a global pandemic, the museum came through even stronger with spectacular exhibitions, landmark gifts of art and funding, and an expanded commitment to equity across the museum. SAM faces a bright future thanks to her leadership during these immensely difficult times.” 

This fall, Amada takes the helm at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) as the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director and CEO where we know she will bring the same dedication and vision to SBMA that she did during her time at SAM. 

Amada will continue at SAM in her current role through the first week of October providing museum leadership the time and opportunity to collaborate on a smooth transition plan. 

Thank you, Amada, for your steadfast leadership of SAM the past four years. You are leaving SAM well positioned for a bright future. We wish you much success and fulfillment in Santa Barbara and know you will take SBMA to new heights like you did SAM. 

… you will be missed!

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Gifts on Gifts, Gallerist Retires, and Amy’s America

SAM News

The Art Newspaper’s Carlie Porterfield reports: “Three US museums use prize funds to acquire works from Expo Chicago.” SAM was one of three museums awarded the Northern Trust Purchase Prize, creating the opportunity to select an artwork by an emerging artist. Phahamong III (2023) by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng is now part of SAM’s collection!

“We’re so thankful to be able to acquire a painting by Mohan Modisakeng. It enhances our efforts to collect living artists, especially those from outside the United States. It bridges many areas of our collection and we look forward to seeing it in Seattle,’ said José Carlos Diaz, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art.”

We’re still beaming from the gift of the Shirley Family Calder Collection, announced earlier in April. For her column, Patti Payne of the Puget Sound Business Journal wrote about the gift that brings a “rebirth” to SAM. The gift was also “raved” about by a Seattle Times reader. 

And that’s not all: The White House just announced that Kim Richter Shirley joins a list of art world megastars appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Congratulations, Kim!

Local News

Crosscut’s Alexa Peters spoke with legendary jazz artist Wynton Marsalis, who has joined in the fight against planned cuts to local music programs in Seattle public schools.

Meet The Stranger’s Artist of the Week: Josie Morway (whoa, those feathers!).

The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce speaks with Sam Davidson of Davidson Galleries, as he prepares to retire after 50 years and looks to sell

“‘It’s just an incredibly rewarding business in the sense that it brings you into contact with wonderful artists and interesting collectors,’ Davidson said. ‘It’s been rewarding to see those perspectives from all these different artists from all these different countries and how it’s influenced by their cultures.’”

Inter/National News

“Searching for Lost Time in the World’s Most Beautiful Calendar”: You’ve gotta see this New York Times interactive with narrative by Jason Farago. 

Amy Taubin for Artforum reviews Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up, in which Michelle Williams plays a Portland ceramicist

Artnet has announced a brand-new season of Art21’s flagship series, “Art in the Twenty-First Century.” The first episode takes you inside the studio with artist Amy Sherald

“‘I consider myself an American Realist,’ Sherald said in the exclusive interview. ‘For me, it means recognizing my Americanness first, and wanting the work to join a greater ongoing conversation.’”

And Finally

Respect: “Our food critic ate 500 tacos to pick his top 30 in Western WA.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Phahamong III, 2023, Mohau Modisakeng, oil on canvas, 55.1 x 41.7 in. Photo courtesy Martin Art Projects.

Muse/News: Calder Gifts, April Theater, and Ancient Fabrics

SAM News

Last week, SAM had exciting news to announce: Thanks to the generosity of Jon and Kim Shirley, one of the most important private collections of Alexander Calder’s artworks will make its way to SAM!

The gift of the Shirley Family Calder Collection includes 48 of the iconic American sculptor’s works and is supported by a $10 million endowment and an annual financial commitment to support Calder-related exhibitions and research. Maximilíano Durón of ARTnews and Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times broke the news on Tuesday morning, including a front page appearance. The Art Newspaper, Geekwire, Artdaily, and local TV and radio were all among those who joined the chorus. 

Stay tuned for November, when the inaugural exhibition of all 48 works goes on view! Until then: there’s so much to see at SAM, including Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth, on view through May 29.

For Seattle Magazine, Sean Meyers explored “100 Years Of Seattle Modernism” in architecture and design, including Jim Ellis Freeway Park, the William B. Tracy House, and, of course, the Olympic Sculpture Park designed by Weiss/Manfredi in 2007.

Local News

Via the City’s Art Beat Blog: Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture is in the midst of a national search for its next director. Read up about what they’re looking for in this critical role and share your thoughts via the community survey link at the end.

Crosscut’s Nimra Ahmad invites you to “meet 3 young PNW writers”—Azura Tyabji, Sah Pham, and Matthew Valentine—in honor of National Poetry Month.

The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce has you covered with “6 theater productions to add to your April calendar.”

“…you’ll have a chance to take a trip down the yellow brick road, make an appointment with a demon barber or perhaps watch as a group of actors tries to tackle Shakespeare without knowing which character they’ll play until the night of the performance. You’ll also be able to see carefully crafted conversations centered on a collegiate debate, mixed-race relationships and the legendary August Wilson’s life.”

Inter/National News

Via Artforum: RIP to photographer Kwame Brathwaite, who died last week at the age of 85. In his work, he popularized the phrase and idea of “Black is beautiful.”

Also announced in ARTnews last week: the 171 scholars and artists who will receive 2023 Guggenheim Fellowships

Via Artnet’s Min Chen: A piece of fabric discovered in a peat bog 40 years ago has finally been analyzed and revealed to be the “world’s oldest piece of tartan,” dating back to the 16th century. (Fun fact: a fragment of Peruvian ikat on view at SAM dates back to the 9th century!)

“‘The Glen Affric tartan is clearly a piece of national and historical significance. It is likely to date to the reign of James V, Mary Queen of Scots, or James VI/I,’ said John McLeish, chair of the Scottish Tartans Authority. ‘There is no other known surviving piece of tartan from this period of this age.’”

And Finally

Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday 1939.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Jon and Kim Shirley with Mountains (1:5 intermediate maquette, 1976). © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy Jon and Kim Shirley.

A Cherished Gift: 48 Artworks by Alexander Calder Are Coming to SAM

Today, we have a major announcement: Thanks to the generosity of Jon and Kim Shirley, one of the most important private collections of Alexander Calder’s artworks will make its way to SAM. The gift of the Shirley Family Calder Collection includes 48 of the artist’s works and is supported by a $10 million endowment and an annual financial commitment to support Calder-related exhibitions and research.

“Calder is an artist whose work is seemingly ubiquitous,” said Amada Cruz, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO of the Seattle Art Museum. “In truth, we’ve lost sight of the enormous artistic innovations that he was responsible for—from pioneering wire sculpture to inventing the mobile—and the tremendous impact he has had on artists of the 20th and 21st century. The extraordinary generosity of Jon and Kim Shirley allows us to explore the many facets of this creative genius.”

The Shirleys’ gift will be the centerpiece of an ongoing series of annual exhibitions and programs. Beginning this November, SAM will present an inaugural exhibition featuring all 48 works from the collection, offering an extensive look into the artist’s work, practice, and life. Following this inaugural show, a group exhibition planned for 2024 will emphasize his impact and legacy in global contemporary art.

“I first fell in love with Calder as a young man, creating a passion that has only grown with time,” said Jon Shirley. “From the moment I bought my first work 35 years ago, I treasured the experience of living with Calder and from that point built my collection very intentionally. I visited the seminal Calder exhibition at the National Gallery in 1998 and soon thereafter decided to build a truly museum-worthy collection of his work. Kim and I are so happy to have found a permanent home for our collection at the Seattle Art Museum.”

Learn more about this generous gift from the Shirley family in The Seattle Times and ARTnews.

Images: Red Curly Tail, 1970, Alexander Calder, 1898-1976, painted steel and stainless steel, 192 x 275 x 144 in., Promised gift of Jon and Mary Shirley, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Nicholas Shirley. Bougainvillier, 1947, Alexander Calder, 1898-1976, sheet metal, rod, wire, lead, and paint, 78 1/2 x 86 in., Promised gift of Jon and Mary Shirley, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Nicholas Shirley.

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