Downloadable PDF

Media Contacts
Lynette Nyman, Minneapolis Institute of Art, (612) 870-3173;
Tammy Pleshek, Minneapolis Institute of Art, (612) 870-3171;

Print Quality Images Available Online:

The Surreal Calder
The First Exhibition Focusing on the Surrealist Aspects
of the Work of American Sculptor Alexander Calder

Opens Sunday June 11 as Part of the MIA’s
Expansion and Renovation Public Celebration

Minneapolis, MN, April 25, 2006—Internationally famous for his mobiles and stabiles, Alexander Calder (1898–1976) is rarely remembered as a Surrealist, but Surrealism reigned when Calder moved to Paris in 1926 and he felt the powerful influence of the movement’s key players. Avant-garde figures such as Jean Arp christened Calder’s static constructions “stabiles”; Marcel Duchamp suggested the name “mobile” for Calder’s kinetic works; Joan Miró familiarized Calder with some central theses of Surrealism; and Piet Mondrian introduced him to pure abstraction. In spite of Calder’s Surrealist lineage—he was, for example, included in the important 1936 “Exposition surréaliste d’objets” in Paris—he has until now generally been separated from those beginnings and excluded from most exhibitions of Surrealist art.

Opening June 11 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), The Surreal Calder presents more than seventy works by the artist, including one of his earliest mechanized sculptures, Goldfish Bowl (1929). Tightrope (1936), a large sculpture that recalls his ongoing fascination with the circus—which took hold in 1925 when Calder worked as a freelance artist and sketched circus acts for the National Police Gazette—is also included. Works from the MIA’s permanent collection have also been selected for inclusion in the exhibition. The Surreal Calder is on view through September 10 in the MIA’s new wing designed by Michael Graves and Associates. Organized by the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas, this exhibition is the first focusing on the artist’s relationship to Surrealism.

“It is fitting that in celebration of the Grand Opening of our new Target Wing, which is dedicated to the art of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, our first major exhibition features the work of Alexander Calder, one America’s greatest modern artists,” said William Griswold, director and president of the MIA.

About the Exhibition
The Surreal Calder sets the stage with a preamble of key paintings from the Menil’s renowned Surrealist collection, featuring works by Max Ernst, René Magritte, Yves Tanguy, and other artists. The exhibition also includes a “cabinet of curiosities,” a grouping of non-western objects collected by Calder and assembled by the artist’s grandson, Alexander S.C. Rower. Like all Surrealists, Calder was fascinated and inspired by the kind of ethnographic material and exotica that would fill a “cabinet of curiosities” of his time.

The exhibition makes evident the especially strong Surrealist vein in Calder’s combinations of found materials. Renowned works such as Gibraltar (1936) reveal Calder’s affinity with Arp’s and Miró’s sculptures. Some of the works in the exhibition also explore Calder’s creatures, and illustrate Surrealism founder André Breton’s term of praise—merveilleux (marvelous). In the spirit of the Surrealist quest for new forms, Calder sometimes suggested cosmic elements in his sculptures—specifically, celestial space, a theme with seemingly endless variations in his work—and these “constellations” receive particular attention.

Calder was born July 22, 1898, near Philadelphia, into a family of artists (his grandfather sculpted the famous figure of William Penn atop Philadelphia’s City Hall). Calder earned a mechanical engineering degree at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. Among the subjects he studied was applied kinetics, dealing with the effects of force on free-moving bodies, which eventually contributed to his invention of the mobile. He attended the Art Students League in New York before leaving for Paris, where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Calder thereafter divided his time between France and the United States. He died in New York on November 11, 1976.

A fully illustrated, color catalogue accompanies this exhibition. The catalogue includes an essay by organizing curator Mark Rosenthal, an illustrated chronology by Alexander S.C. Rower, and a suite of rarely published Herbert Matter photographs of the artist. (Hardcover, 156 pages, $45.)

Family Day Public Program

“Calder: A Balancing Act” 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, August 13, FREE
Take a tour of the museum and discover the wonders behind ancient and modern sculpture in the permanent collection. Using paper, thread, and other materials, create your own balanced sculpture in a studio art activity. Enjoy works of modern sculpture by innovative twentieth-century sculpture Alexander Calder in the special exhibition The Surreal Calder. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the new and exciting expanded galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Summer Youth Programs 2006

For information on Calder-related youth classes and art camps at the MIA please call (612) 870-3131 during open museum hours.

Exhibition Tour

The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas
September 30, 2005–January 8, 2006

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California
March 3–May 21, 2006

Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota
June 11–September 10, 2006

The Surreal Calder is organized by The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas and is generously supported in part by The Eleanor and Frank Freed Foundation, Anita and Mike Stude, An Anonymous Donor in Honor of Elsian Cozens, Mary and Roy Cullen, and Mrs. Nancy C. Allen, with additional support from The Cullen Foundation, Fayez Sarofim & Co., George and Josephine Hamman Foundation, Houston Endowment, Inc., the Wortham Foundation, and the City of Houston.
Generous support for this local presentation is provided by Target.

About the Minneapolis Institute of Art

The Minneapolis Institute of Art, home to one of the finest encyclopedic art collections in the country, houses nearly 100,000 works of art representing more than 5,000 years of world history. Highlights of the permanent collection include European masterworks by Rembrandt van Rijn, Nicolas Poussin, and Vincent van Gogh, as well as internationally significant collections of Asian art, decorative arts, Modernism, photographs, and African and Native American art.

General admission is always free. Some special exhibitions have a nominal admission fee. Museum hours: Sunday, 11 a.m–5 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Closed Monday. For additional information, call (612) 870-3131 or visit

# # #