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King of the castle

Sudeley’s alfresco exhibition of monumental Calder sculptures

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King of the castle

Image: Le Chien en Trois Couleurs, 1973 © Calder Foundation New York/Dacs

June 23 2013
Nicole Swengley

One of the 20th century’s most influential sculptors – and the acclaimed inventor of the hanging mobile – Alexander Calder is renowned for his engaging kinetic art. Less well known, however, are his large-scale outdoor sculptures, constructed between 1950 and 1970 – even though many occupy city-centre sites in places such as New York, Paris, Sydney and Los Angeles. This summer, there is a rare opportunity to admire and buy a selection of these impressive pieces at the UK’s first ever outdoor exhibition of the artist’s grander works.

This adventurous selling show follows hot on the heels of Calder After the War, held at the contemporary art gallery Pace in London. Working with New York’s non-profit Calder Foundation, the same gallery has curated an alfresco exhibition composed of six sculptures (prices on request) in the gardens at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, where they will stand resplendent throughout the summer.

Each bears the hallmark of Calder’s distinctive style, with the cut and painted metal sheets creating dramatic abstract forms. “Every installation of Calder’s monumental sculpture drastically changes our perception of not only the work itself but also the space around it,” says Alexander SC Rower, Calder’s grandson and president of the Calder Foundation. “In stark contrast to seeing the works in a more typical international-style plaza, visitors to Sudeley Castle will experience references to medieval architecture in Calder’s visual language – against a backdrop of idyllic English countryside.”

Hints of Calder’s fascination with mobile constructions is evident in several pieces, including 3 Flèches Blanches (1965) and Trepied (1972). However, Untitled (1976, third picture) is a complete departure: a giant rust-red figure that stands more than 4m tall. With its huge wings and swooping tail, Brontosaurus (1970, second picture) appears half-bird, half beast – a mythical creature that has momentarily landed in Sudeley’s grounds – while Le Chien en Trois Couleurs (1973, first picture) looks less like a tri-coloured dog than a geometrical puzzle in giant, three-dimensional form.

With Sudeley’s glorious gardens as a backdrop, this striking gathering of Calder’s boldest work is one of the summer’s outdoor cultural highlights.