Calder Stories, an exhibition floating on the Cantabrian Sea

In Santander the American artist’s unrealized projects in an exhibition curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist: metalic wires suspended in the air, movement and hidden stories behind his creations.  

The exhibition “Calder Stories” opened to the public at the Botín Centre, the building designed by Renzo Piano that overlooks sea made of steel and glass, recognisable for its cladding in pearly shades created by the encounter of 280.000 rounded ceramic tiles with light and water.  

The cultural centre hosts an exhibition on Alexander Calder’s works until November 3rd 2019, telling some “stories” throughout five decades of his career that lead the visitor to discover the American artist from an unusual point of view. The exhibition, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, explores the sculptor’s unrealized projects, including maquettes, sketches, coreographies and pieces that explain his creative process. “The exhibition needed to be something that spots an unexpected view on Calder” tells the curator. “It should be interesting to apply the same methodology to other historical figures, it could become a series. I like to put light on blindspot”.

Calder Stories
Alexander Calder. Rouge triomphant, 1963 © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York / VEGAP, Santander

Like a cliff, the exhibition room looks at the sea and lets waves in and merge with metalic stuctures suspended in the air, coloured paint and shapes that mould space. Among the 80 exhibited works, the visitor is amused by Rouge triumphant (1963), one of Calder’s famous Mobiles, a kinetic sculpture made of metalic wire that gently moves in front of the high window of the room. The coloured and oscillating elements of Snake and the Cross (1936) represent the exploration of painting rendered in three dimensions. Square, a single rounded shape moved by a hidden mechanism, is yet another study on movement. The maquette of the last work of Calder, a monumental sculpture for Kröller Müller Museum's garden in Otterlo, is also exhibited here.  

The exhibition displays an incredible collection of bronzes, all models for unrealized architectural projects. “The whole idea of Calder is sculpting space and movement” explains Benjamin Weil, artistic director of Centro Botín since 2014, talking about bronzes. “All these sculptures had to be bigger, 20 meters high maybe. There is an incredible sense of scale in those works: if you look at them you can imagine what it would be like if they were higher, something rare for small objects”.

Calder Stories
Alexander Calder. Snake and the Cross, 1936. Calder Foundation, New York © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York / VEGAP, Santander

The set design, designed by Renzo Piano, is open and light. Floating display cubes follow the concept of Calder’s works and the museum itself, that is lifted from the ground thanks to pilotis. The building stands on the pier between the water and Jardines de Pereda creating accessible spaces that are inclusive to the city and its citizens.  

Stairs and semitransparent footbridges connect the two blocks of the Botín Centre that include, beside exhibition areas, a restaurant, a shop, an auditorium and a screen for projections placed on the west facade. An enchanting view on the rooftop can be reached by a “singing” elevator:  the ascending or descending scale of a choir theatrically accompanies the visitor through ups and downs. 
Calder’s exhibition is perfectly set in the arts centre, floating in space ad time, on the Cantabrian Sea.

Calder Stories
Renzo Piano
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Artistic director:
Benjamin Weil
Botín Centre
Muelle de Albareda, Paseo de Pereda, Santander, Spain

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