Exhibition explores Alexander Calder's enduring and unmistakable influence on contemporary art

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Exhibition explores Alexander Calder's enduring and unmistakable influence on contemporary art
Monika Sosnowska, Gates 3, 2014, Courtesy the artist, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne and Capitain Petzel, Berlin. Photo: Jens Ziehe.

ROTTERDAM.- Kunsthal Rotterdam is presenting ‘Calder Now’: an impressive exhibition that explores for the first time in Europe the modern master’s enduring and unmistakable influence on contemporary art. ‘Calder Now’ presents twenty sculptures by Alexander Calder, alongside works by ten prominent contemporary artists: Olafur Eliasson, Žilvinas Kempinas, Simone Leigh, Ernesto Neto, Carsten Nicolai, Roman Signer, Aki Sasamoto, Monika Sosnowska, Sarah Sze, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Enigmatic, gravity-defying installations, sculptures that induce extraordinary optical experiences, and art that appeals to all the senses reveal new connections with Calder and bring into focus the countless extensions of his legacy. This must-see Kunsthal production leads the visitor through a multisensory experience. The exhibition is realised in close collaboration with guest curators Dieter Buchhart and Anna Karina Hofbauer, and the Calder Foundation. Many of the sculptures and installations are being shown in the Netherlands for the first time.


In the exhibition, Calder’s works – a career-spanning selection that includes his iconic mobiles and stabiles – alternate with the installations and sculptures of the contemporary artists. In a fascinating interplay of visual and thematic connections, the public can discover links between the art of today and that of the modern master. The works by artists from our own era resonate with important themes in Calder’s oeuvre: light and reflection, humble materials, the senses, sound, activation, architecture, ephemera, gravity, performance, and positive and negative space. The ten international artists in ‘Calder Now’ are showing works that wouldn’t exist without the precedence of these themes in Calder’s visionary body of art.


Some of the works were especially made for ‘Calder Now’ and are being shown to the public for the very first time at the Kunsthal. In the spring of 2021, Aki Sasamoto (Japan, 1980) spent four months as an artist in residence at the Atelier Calder in Saché, France. There she created ‘Squirrel Ways’, a piece on the cutting edge of installation and performance. On several occasions during the exhibition, Sasamoto will deliver her performance in the architectural installation.

In keeping with the rest of his work, Rirkrit Tiravanija (Argentina, 1961) has created the accessible and participative piece ‘untitled 2021 (le jeu de l’araignée rouge)’. In the exhibition space, visitors will encounter a billiards table with one white, one yellow, one blue and multiple red balls, and everyone is invited to play a game of billiards.

With nothing more than a wall, magnetic tape and a fan, the artist Žilvinas Kempinas (Lithuania, 1969) has created a dynamic and constantly changing installation called ‘Flaming Tape’ (2021). The kinetic work is activated by air currents that set the strips of tape in motion like a 3D drawing.

“I see Calder as a brilliant example of human creativity, pushing boundaries of traditional sculpture, constantly challenging himself throughout the years of his incredibly prolific life.” - Žilvinas Kempinas

Experiences that stimulate the senses

The use of humble materials is what connects the work of Simone Leigh (United States, 1967) to that of Calder. Leigh finds inspiration in West African and Native American ceramics traditions. She uses materials like cowrie shells, roses and raffia. The histories and experiences of Black women play an important role in Leigh’s work. In 2022, the artist will be representing the United States during the 59th Venice Biennale.

Carsten Nicolai (Germany, 1965) aims to make complicated processes of time, sound, and space accessible and visible to the spectator. In ‘Calder Now’ his impressive installation ‘pionier I’ (2011) will be shown. At intervals, a sizeable, white silk parachute is blown up by a wind machine, simultaneously flooding the Kunsthal’s large HALL 2 with sound.

Ernesto Neto (Brazil, 1964) appeals to all the senses with his immersive and sensuous installation ‘It Happens When the Body is Anatomy of Time’ (2000). Like diagonal columns, enormous Lycra tulle sacks filled with fragrant cloves, cumin and saffron are stretched between the floor and the ceiling.

Olafur Eliasson (Denmark, 1967) uses natural phenomena such as light and reflection for his research into perception. With his sensory installations he aims to directly involve the spectator in his work. In the exhibition he is presenting two very different works: ‘Black and yellow double polyhedron lamp’ (2011), and ‘The lost compass’ (2013).

Roman Signer (Switzerland, 1938) takes inconspicuous, everyday objects and transforms these into imaginative and surprising pieces. A white shirt, for instance, with the sleeve lifted up by a heliumfilled balloon (‘Hemd’, 1995), or a bent organ pipe (‘Orgelpfeife’, 2020). Experimentation and energetic activation are central to his humorous work that offers unexpected perspectives on the world around us.

‘Still Life with Desk’ (2013-2015) by the American artist Sarah Sze (1969) manifests itself to the public like a moment frozen in time. With this installation made of wire and objects, such as photographs, stationary, and disposable cups, Sze researches the construction and measurability of time and space.

And Monika Sosnowska (1972) transforms architectural traces of post-war Poland – her native country – into elegant shapes. On the one hand her ‘Gate’ sculptures appear to be heavy, but on the other they also seem weightless and light-hearted when suspended from the ceiling.

Revolutionary artistic innovations

Alexander Calder (United States, 1898-1967) instigated many revolutionary artistic innovations. In his quest to move beyond the three spatial dimensions – making the fourth dimension of time a prominent and indispensable element of his work – Calder succeeded in transforming the dominant understanding of sculpture. He was the first to remove sculpture from its pedestal, suspending it in mid-air. The exhibition shows how, even fifty years after his death, the legacy of Calder is still a source of inspiration for contemporary artistic practices. The work of the groundbreaking artists in ‘Calder Now’ invites new conversations and interpretations of his oeuvre.

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