Portrait of Calder, 11 December 1946, Photograph by Irving Penn © The Irving Penn Foundation

Artist Projects

Calder Foundation Launches Unprecedented Online Research Archive

Friday, Feb 19, 2021

Calder Foundation today launched a new online research archive at the heart of a redesigned and expanded (opens in a new window) calder.org. Offering an extraordinary level of public access via a bespoke database that facilitates dynamic explorations of Alexander Calder’s art and life, the site seeks to enrich the public’s understanding of the artist in both scholarly and experiential ways.

The new website fortuitously arrives at a moment when research has had to move entirely online due to COVID-19. Given that only a handful of in-person researchers are able to explore these physical materials in the Calder Foundation’s paper archive each year, even during normal circumstances, this online digital experience makes them broadly available for the first time. Anyone from museum curators to researchers to students can now meaningfully cultivate their understanding of Calder from anywhere, marking an exciting new chapter for the Foundation.


Vertical Constellation with Bomb, 1943, Photograph by Herbert Matter © Calder Foundation, New York


Vertical Constellation with Yellow Bone, 1943, Photograph by Herbert Matter © Calder Foundation, New York

The online archive also presents the material in an entirely unprecedented manner that is not available offline. Visitors can filter and sort records in a variety of interconnected ways for works of art, exhibitions, publications, and chronology entries detailing the artist’s life events, as well as for historic photographs and documents.

Among the content available are 1,377 works of art across all media, 1,000 historical photographs and documents, and 48 historic and contemporary texts. This wealth of documentation and scholarship, most of which are being made available to the public for the first time, is fully integrated within the site’s extensive database.

Our goal with this project is to offer visitors a version of the extraordinary experience I had going through my grandfather’s papers from Roxbury and Saché when building the Calder Foundation’s archive. I believe it will transform our understanding of his genius.

Alexander S. C. Rower, President, Calder Foundation

Another highlight is a new interactive map feature called “Calder Around the World,” which allows viewers to find public installations of his monumental sculpture in 20 states domestically and 21 countries internationally, including museums with important Calder holdings and permanent and temporary exhibitions dedicated to the artist.

The new online research archive will also present a rich selection of resources related to the 19 most significant exhibitions in Calder’s lifetime. One notable example is the artist’s 1931 solo exhibition at Galerie Percier, Paris, in which he debuted his first nonobjective sculptures. Among the never-before-published material is the artist’s handwritten checklist, a revelatory document that delineates the various works in the show as either sphériques, arcs, densités, or mouvements arrêtés (arrested movements).


Installation photograph, Alexandre Calder: Volumes–Vecteurs–Densités / Dessins–Portraits, Galerie Percier, Paris, 1931, Photograph by Marc Vaux © Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou, Marc Vaux Collection

The online archive is a cornerstone project within the Calder Foundation’s mission to expand public knowledge and cultivate nuanced interpretations of the artist’s work. Designed by Brooklyn-based studio CHIPS and completed over the course of three years, this new resource aims to pioneer digital research methods and to set a new gold standard in digital artist archives.

“The Calder Foundation’s terrific new website is kaleidoscopic in its depth, reach, and range. It’s exactly what’s needed to explore the art and life of Alexander Calder, a towering figure in the modern movement and a man who never stood still for long. You’re encouraged to follow a first glimpse of a mobile or a stabile with a deep dive into the work’s historical moment and enduring significance. The site is a treasure trove, with hundreds of art works, photographs, films, documents, and texts, plus a map on which you can track Calder’s monumental sculptures installed around the world. Some of the material has rarely if ever been seen, including letters featuring the artist’s own bold, beautiful handwriting. And because Calder’s achievement is set in the broadest imaginable context—with lots of information about artist friends including Marcel Duchamp and Fernand Léger—this portrait of an indomitable creative spirit becomes a panorama of modernism and avant-gardism in the twentieth century,” says Jed Perl, art critic and Calder biographer.


Installation photograph, Calder, New Gallery, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 1950, Photograph by Ezra Stoller © Esto

“This new online research archive is a gamechanger, bringing the dimensionality of the Calder Foundation’s paper archive to life. It will allow my students to examine and weigh the importance of these objects—from rarely seen manuscripts to installation images of key exhibitions—in a whole new way, recognizing them as key elements in their research,” says Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Professor of Art History at the University of Virginia and curator of Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2018).

“Calder’s legacy develops and remains relevant as long as it is engaged. This requires access, and a deep trust in the artist’s work that it’s solid and yet elastic enough to welcome a multitude of engagements,” says Jill Magid, artist and 2018 Calder Prize laureate.

“The wealth of materials available in this digital archive, compiled by the Calder Foundation’s vastly knowledgeable staff, has facilitated key research for my upcoming exhibition, Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. It will surely continue to inform scholarship for generations to come,” says Cara Manes, Associate Curator, Department of Painting & Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The archive’s launch foregrounds Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start, opening this spring at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (14 March–7 August 2021).

(opens in a new window) Explore the new online archive at calder.org
  • Artist Projects — Calder Foundation Launches Unprecedented Online Research Archive, Feb 19, 2021