The Smithsonian Gallery of Art and the New York “World’s fair

The Smithsonian Gallery of Art and the New York “World’s fair

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During that same year, Calder worked with another architect: Percival Goodman. As part of the collaboration, Calder proposed sculptures to be included with Goodman’s submission to a competition held to choose a design for the new Smithsonian Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Goodman did not win the contest, and Calder’s works were not made, but neither was the winning project because, soon after, the Second World War broke out, changing the country’s priorities.

The models that Calder created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, which are right in front of this showcase, have a similar story: they would never be realized. Calder intended for the finished sculptures to be 15 meters high, adapted into a large-scale sculptural kinetic environment. As you can see, the elements of the sculptures would have moved. Can you imagine being under one of them? Maybe if you bend down to look at them, you will be able to get a sense of what Calder envisioned.

Calder had also received a commission for the 1939 New York World’s Fair from Wallace K. Harrison and André Fouilhoux, architects of the Consolidated Edison Pavilion, to produce an extraordinary fountain for the pool in front of their building. Calder’s Water Ballet consisted of a program lasting five minutes that included a choreography of “jets of water from 14 nozzles…designed to spurt, oscillate or rotate in fixed manners at times as carefully predetermined as the movements of living dancers.” Although the jets were installed at the New York World’s Fair, the ballet was never executed.

Now go to the audiovisual room behind the wall that supports the first works you have enjoyed; there you will see the drawings for the Water Ballet and also have the chance to get into Calder’s brain.

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