Alexander Calder’s beguiling kinetic sculptures are among the most immediately recognizable works of American modern art. From his swaying suspended pieces and lively motor-activated sculptures — which prompted Marcel Duchamp to coin the term “mobiles” — to his stationary abstract “stabiles” executed in sheet metal, Calder’s work enchants international viewers in museums, plazas, parks, and countless other public spaces.
Even before the pandemic, however, few were able to peruse the artist’s paper archive, an incomparable collection of unpublished photographs, rare documents, ephemera, and other materials housed in the Calder Foundation’s New York headquarters. Now, with the launch of the foundation’s new online research archive, the trove is available to anyone with an Internet connection — an unprecedented step in expanding access to Calder’s work.
The platform is a growing database, with newly digitized materials added periodically. So far, the archive includes over 1,300 Calder works across different media; 1,000 photographs and archival documents; and 48 historic and recent texts by the artist, his contemporaries, and present-day scholars. The platform also features over 40 microsites exploring Calder’s exhibition history, a gold mine for academic researchers looking for hard-to-find checklists, installation images, and inventory drawings.
Viewers can discover public installations of Calder’s works around the world using a new interactive feature on the website, including temporary and permanent outdoor displays and museum holdings.
“Our goal with this project is to offer visitors a version of the extraordinary experience I had going through my grandfather’s papers from Roxbury and Saché when building the Calder Foundation’s archive,” the foundation’s president, Alexander S. C. Rower, said in a statement. “I believe it will transform our understanding of his genius.”