Design Notes Archive

Kinetic Sculpture

Kinetic Sculpture

Four years ago, when the Tate London unveiled it’s exhibition on American sculptor Alexander Calder, it was met with overwhelming praise. The Financial Times called it “Britain’s happiest exhibition,” The Guardian “a surprise and a delight,” The Daily Telegraph an “exhilarating novelty.” Something about kinetic sculpture (artwork that moves) just emits a sense of joy and wonderment. Perhaps that’s why we hang mobiles above baby’s cots. Perhaps that was also a contributing factor in Calder’s selection for the inaugural exhibition at Pace Gallery’s new headquarters.

Opening last month in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood (counting the High Line and Hudson Yards among it’s neighbors), Pace's new 75,000-square-foot home is more museum-like than your typical art gallery. Despite its vastness, Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere (named after his first kinetic sculpture) feels approachable thanks to its 70 pieces being displayed in a series of intimate alcoves in the gallery’s ground floor exhibition space. This Calder mobile (pictured left) exemplifies how eye-catching these sculptures can be in a domestic setting. Just ask Ryan Korban, Malene Birger, Herve van der Straeten, Reed Krakoff or Allegra Hicks, all of whom have hanging mobiles at home. Peter Marino, himself a collector and patron of the arts, designed this home in Miami, Florida, and it’s notable how he echoed the mobile’s movement in his placement of the wall art and the geode-like shape of the cocktail table by Juan and Paloma Garrido.

While Calder is largely considered the father of kinetic sculpture, others have since followed making this form of art more accessible, if not controversial. Where a Calder might fetch millions at auction (most recently, 2.5 million Euros at Sotheby’s in June), works inspired by Calder fetch much less. The mobile in this stunning bathroom, designed by the incredibly talented, multi-disciplinary duo Anthony Collett and Andrzej Zarzycki, was created by Manuel Marin.  Marin, a Spanish artist who assisted Henry Moore in England in the early 1960s, later moved to the United States and began working in kinetic sculpture. The artist was heavily influenced by Calder and, while his worked can be acquired for a more affordable fee (results at Christies ranged from £3,000-£10,000 over the past few years) they come with a scandalous tale. Marin is his artistic take on a nom de plume. The artist’s real name was Manuel Fernandez and in 2000 he was convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges and sentenced to 33 months in prison for forging Calder’s work, among others!

Photographs: Manolo Yllera, Richard Powers. Alexander Calder mobile © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York