Art News

The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag to Show Alexander Calder Retrospective

artwork: Alexander Calder - "Cow", circa 1926 - Wire and wood - 8.9 x 20.5 x 9.9 cm. - Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NYC. On view at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in "Alexander Calder: The Great Discovery" from February 11th until May 28th.

The Hague, Netherlands.- The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag is proud to present “Alexander Calder: The Great Discovery”, on view at the museum from February 11th through May 28th. Thanks to a prestigious Turing Art Grant, which made this important exhibition possible, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag will present the first major Calder retrospective to be held in the Netherlands since 1969. Calder’s radical wire sculptures, astonishing Cirque Calder (1926–1931), and mobiles characterized by immateriality and movement won the artist worldwide fame and established him as one of the foremost founders of modern sculpture. The exhibition focuses on the legendary meeting between Alexander Calder and Piet Mondrian at the latter’s studio in Paris in October of 1930, and explores the impact the studio environment made on Calder, which left an even more indelible impression on him than the paintings.

Alexander Calder (1898–1976) grew up in a family engaged in artistic traditions: his father was a sculptor and his mother, a painter. As a child, he made model animals, jewelry, and small sculptures from a variety of unconventional materials. Initially training as a mechanical engineer, Calder did not attend art school until 1923 when he enrolled in the Art Students League, New York. Over the rapidly unfolding years that followed, Calder entirely redefined the course of modern sculpture by formalizing movement in art. This was a major innovation: never again would sculpture be seen as a matter of chisels and blocks of wood or stone. Between 1926 and 1933, Calder lived in Paris, then the heart of the modern art movement. At this stage, he was producing wire sculptures that suggested volume with gestural lines and he became famous for performances of his Cirque Calder, an elaborate miniature circus he had concocted from everyday materials like wire, wood, leather, cork, and scraps of cloth. An early example of performance art, the Cirque was designed to be manipulated by the artist: acrobats swayed across the tightrope, dogs jumped through hoops, and the elephant stood on its hind legs.

artwork: Alexander Calder - "Untitiled (maquette)", 1976 - Aluminium and painted metal - 65 x 72 x 39 cm. Collection of the Kröller-Muller Museum, Otterlo. -  On view at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

The exhibition stems from Calder’s one visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930, which triggered a radical change in his artistic practice. As Calder later recalled: “It was this visit to Mondrian’s studio that made me abstract.” He admired Mondrian’s use of space and converted it into his own artistic expression grounded in gesture and immateriality. A central feature of the forthcoming exhibition is a complete reconstruction of Mondrian’s studio on the Rue du Départ. The exhibition includes a 1929 film by Hans Cürlis that was shown in the Netherlands in the early 1930s and depicts Calder creating two wire circus figures with no more than a pair of pliers and his own bare hands––profiling the artist as a great innovator with his unorthodox use of materials and methods. The exhibition concludes with one of Calder’s final works, a circa 1976 design for a sculpture that was to have stood in the sculpture park at the Kröller-Müller Museum, rediscovered during preparations for the exhibition. However, because of Calder’s untimely death in 1976, the project went unrealized.

The Municipal Museum (Dutch: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag) is an art museum, located in The Hague, Netherlands. The museum was built by the Dutch architect H.P. Berlage. It is renowned for its large Mondrian collection, the largest in the world. His last work, “Victory Boogie-Woogie”, is on display at the museum. The modern art collection provides a varied overview of developments in the fine arts since the early 19th century. Charley Toorop’s piercing eyes and Floris Verster’s bowl of eggs are flanked by works by leading foreign artists, including Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet, plus an extensive collection of German Expressionist pieces. This helps to place Dutch examples of the Realist and Symbolist schools and the De Stijl movement in an international context. Outstanding features in the collection are the Hague School paintings and a marvellous series of works by Mondrian, ranging from moody Dutch landscapes to the sparkling Victory Boogie Woogie. As a whole, the collection traces the thrilling story of modern art – right through to today. The Modern Art Department’s print room has a large collection of drawings, prints and posters dating from the 19th and 20th century. Most are by Dutch artists, but there are also major groups of foreign works. These include a fine collection of 19th-century French works on paper with an emphasis on work by Rodolphe Bresdin, Odilon Redon and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. German Expressionism is also well represented. The entire collection numbers around 50,000 objects. Parts of the collection are regularly exhibited in the print room. The Gemeentemuseum possesses one of the world’s leading collections of fashion items. It includes both historical costumes and contemporary designs. Exhibitions focus not just on changing fashions in the Netherlands, but also on landmark designs from abroad. Accessories, jewellery, fashion drawings and prints all help to place the garments in a broader perspective. Visit the museum’s website at …