In 2013, during the coming of the Art Prize to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Calder’s iconic sculpture La Grande Vitesse — a gigantic curved structure of red iron — was covered in sentimental white flowers by a local artist who wanted to pay homage to the seminal sculptor’s ties to France. The Calder foundation, probably reacting to what some saw as a cutesy hawaiian shirt-like disrespect to Calder’s legacy as a modern and cutting-edge artist, called the intervention an “abomination reflecting an utter lack of understanding and respect of Calder’s legacy and genius.”
With the show Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture currently installed at Tate Modern, Calder seems to come back in the center of conversations, and Pace Gallery’s The Calder Prize 2005-2015presents the authorised version of what Calder’s “legacy and genius” might look like in 2016.
Alexander Calder is one of these modern giants that has so permeated the vocabulary of art, that his work has now become one of the building blocks with which we understand sculpture. He was a constant innovator, but it is his perfection of the mobiles — suspended sculptures moving around with air currents, and his monumental public sculptures that have most marked the history of sculpture.
The Calder Foundation, founded in 1987, eleven years after the death of the artist, by his grandson, attributes a Calder Prize biannually. The Prize itself consists of a monetary reward of 50.000 USD, a residency at Atelier Calder, and the placement of a work in a public collection. But the exposure is also inherently part of the reward, and all of the winners so far have gone on to major exhibitions and recognition. The aim of the prize is, according to the Foundation, to reward artists who made exemplary and innovative early work that can be interpreted as a continuation of Calder’s legacy. By exhibiting the work of every winner so far next to Calder’s, Pace provides an opportunity to examine both what that legacy might be, and how each of the Prize’s five winners engage with or define such a legacy.
WHEN YOU WERE AWARDED THE CALDER PRIZE, WHAT WAS THE IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER, BOTH DUE TO THE EXPOSURE AND THE MONETARY PRIZE?
“I WAS VERY HONORED TO RECEIVE THE INAUGURAL CALDER PRIZE AND A RESIDENCY AT ATELIER CALDER IN FRANCE. THE AWARD CAME AT A CRITICAL TIME FOR ME EARLY IN MY CAREER. IT GAVE ME A CHANCE TO FIND THE TIME AND SPACE TO PURSUE SOME LARGER PROJECTS, THAT OTHERWISE WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE AT THE TIME.” – TARA DONOVAN
“IT WOULD NOT BE AN EXAGGERATION TO SAY THAT THE CALDER PRIZE AND ATELIER CALDER RESIDENCY PUSHED ME TO BECOME A FULL-TIME ARTIST, HELPED ME TO GAIN INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME BROUGHT ME CLOSER TO MY HOMELAND.” – ŽILVINAS KEMPINAS