Collectors of Alexander Calder‘s sculptural art have a conundrum—his pieces were made to move, but displaying them that way risks damaging the delicate mobiles. A single piece may have hundreds of delicate wire links and joints.
But they are meant to be seen in motion, and the Whitney Museum of American Art intends to display them so in their upcoming exhibition, “Calder: Hypermobility.”
Alexander S.C. Rower, grandson of Calder and president of the Calder Foundation, is working with the Manhattan museum to train crew members in the delicate touch that least risks the sculptures. This approach amounts to prodding them lightly in the right place with a foam-padded down, thus setting the delicate mobiles into either languid spinning or jerky, parabolic motions.
“They’re all quite graceful,” said Mr. Lomblad, a handler at the Whitney. “But some of them, I think on purpose, have these moments when they’re not graceful. I know that couldn’t be by accident.”
“They each have their own sort of potential energy, so if you can harness what it’s already doing to make it more active, you can spread out that energy.”
The handlers have each developed favorites, particular works which they know best.
The exhibition has made the Whitney art handlers, normally an invisible presence before galleries open and late at night, into performers, attending the art to keep it in motion for an audience. And something fun has happened, wherein the audience has begun to form attachments to the human element in the exhibition. A handler wielding their little dowel with panache might even garner a round of applause.
“Calder: Hypermobility,” and its handler crew will be running through October 23rd, 2017. The Whitney Museum of American Art is in Manhattan, on Gansevoort Street. Tickets are $18 for students, $25 for adults.