Published: March 6, 2001
PHILADELPHIA, PENN. – Plans for a new museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to display the achievements of three generations of the Calder family of sculptors, including Philadelphia-born Alexander Calder (1898-1976), took an important step forward with the recent announcement at City Hall that Japanese architect Tadao Ando will design the project.
Ando, 59, an internationally renowned Pritzker Prize-winning architect based in his native Osaka, Japan, creates strikingly distinctive structures of concrete, glass, wood, and stone.
“I am deeply moved by the opportunity to create a home for the work of Alexander Calder, whose art gives movement to the wind,” Ando said. “The site for the museum, at Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 22nd Street, is central to the city and symbolic to the Calders as the most historically meaningful location in the world. It’s a place where the thread of three generations of the family’s achievement extends, unbroken, in eloquent sculptural form.”
In March 2000, the Fairmount Park Commission of the City of Philadelphia approved in concept the use of a two-acre expanse on the southeast corner of the Parkway at 22nd Street, directly across the street from the Rodin Museum, as the site for the proposed 35,000 square-foot museum. The Calder Museum Partners, a newly incorporated non-profit corporation with a mission to bring the new museum into being, will include on its board members of the Calder family and Foundation, and officials from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the City of Philadelphia, among others.
Anne d’Harnoncourt, director and chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, commented, “We are thrilled by the twin opportunities represented by the Calder Museum and Mr Ando’s role as architect. We are eager to devote all the thought and planning necessary to help bring about the project in a manner as spirited and inspired as Calder himself. Like his fellow modernists Brancusi, Miro and Duchamp – all of whom are exceptionally well represented in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Calder’s was a highly original vision, and he transformed the art of his time. Tadao Ando’s architecture offers a special poetic resonance with Calder’s work.
“I am enormously grateful to Diane Dalto, who will take on the new role of project director for the Calder Museum Partners, to Gail Harrity, chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and to John Higgins, executive director, Foundation for Architecture, who have been crucial members of the team that brought about this happy day.”
“We are very pleased that Ando will serve as architect,” noted Calder Foundation Director Alexander S.C. Rower, Alexander Calder’s grandson, at the press conference on February 14. “His interest in industrial materials, and in the transforming qualities of light and space are beautifully in keeping with those of my grandfather.”
“I cannot help but think of how appropriate this is. My great-great-grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder, created the bronze sculpture of William Penn that stands like a beacon on top of the very building in which we are assembled today. And my great-grandfather, Alexander Stirling Calder, designed the Swann Memorial Foundation at Logan Circle nearer the site for our museum. Further down the Parkway, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a wonderful mobile, “Ghost,” by my grandfather, is suspended in the Great Stair Hall. The work of the Calder family has long been a part of this city’s cultural fabric, and we are moved by the commitment being made to renew and fulfill this historic artistic legacy in Philadelphia.”
In 1998, on the centenary of Alexander Calder’s birth, the Calder Foundation decided to establish a museum devoted to Calder in a major European or American city. Alexander Calder, born in 1898, to the accomplished artistic Philadelphia family, became one of the most celebrated and influential sculptors of the Twentieth Century. The Calder Museum in Philadelphia will be home to a significant portion of some 300 sculptures, 55 outdoor works and over 3,000 works of art on paper in the unparalleled collection represented by the Calder Foundation.
The new museum, which will include a library and digitally accessible archives, will also present works by Calder’s father and grandfather, as well as a group of works from Calder’s own collection of art by those he knew and admired, including Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso, in addition to sculpture from Africa and Oceania. In addition top the Pritzker Prize in 1995, Ando’s other major awards include the 1992 Carlsberg Prize, the 1996 Praemium Imperiale, and the 1997 British Architects Gold Medal.
Costs for the proposed Calder Museum project are estimated at $50 million, with $35 million required for construction expenses, and an additional $15 million needed for endowment. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will play a substantive role in administering the new museum, as it does for other Philadelphia cultural destinations, including the Rodin Museum, Cedar Grove and Mount Pleasant mansions in Fairmount Park, and The Fleisher Art Memorial in South Philadelphia.
Calder’s career extended over five decades and his unfailing sense of invention, perfect balance, and appropriate scale kept his art extraordinarily fresh. His work figures prominently in the modern collections of major museums throughout the world, and a retrospective exhibition in 1998 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, attracted a total of 603,700 visitors.
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