Alexander Calder, the man who moved art, at the MMFA

After him, art began to dance, to move, to fly. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents the artist’s first Canadian retrospective, Alexander Calder: A Radical Inventor. At the time of presenting the exhibition, the director of the museum, Nathalie Bondil, spoke of Montreal as a “Calder city”. It is indeed on St. Helen’s Island that Calder erected, on the occasion of Expo 67, his second largest sculpture, the monumental Three Discs. It is also called The Man, even though Calder preferred to leave it to everyone to interpret his works. This public artwork, 20 meters high, is designed to withstand winds of 200 kilometers per hour.

However, Ms. Bondil regrets that Montrealers are not familiar Calder, yet very famous in the United States and France, where he lived for decades.

It is to name his works that Marcel Duchamp invented the word “mobile”. Einstein himself, when he sees the motorized mobile Calder, The Universe, created in 1934, say “I would have liked to think about it myself”.

The MMFA has decided to approach Calder’s work chronologically. One enters there with the artist, child, who from the age of nine, makes a self-portrait of him with pliers and hammers. Two years later, little Calder gives his parents two small miniatures of a duck and a dog. Perhaps this was the beginning of his question about the mobility of art?

While his father and mother were sculptor and painter respectively, it is by handling the wire that Alexander Calder stands out.

Fascinated by the circus arts, he made, from 1926, 69 miniature figurines, and 18 mechanisms to animate them, 34 musical instruments and 19 phonograph records. A silent film from 1928, shown in the museum, shows it, folding the iron to give it the lightness of the acrobats, while a wooden totem, carved by Calder, represents three equilibrists mounted on the shoulders of each other.