Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Calder Garden at 22nd & the Parkway is No More - THIS IS NOT AN APRIL FOOLS DAY JOKE -

What happened to The Calder Park at 22nd & the Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia PA (Click on pix to see amazing larger shot)

In 2001, the Pew Charitable Trusts announced a $5-million grant to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to present a series of outdoor installations of work by Philadelphia-born sculptor Alexander Calder along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Ordinary (1969), the 21-foot tall, multi-colored stabile/mobile was placed at 22nd & Parkway in Philadelphia first and the garden grew around it. At one point there was even talk about the first Calder Museum being built on this spot, but in the end the deal fell through as insiders at the time told me that the Calder's were reluctant to sign long term loan leases of 99 years.
The grant was written so that enable the Philadelphia Art Museum, in collaboration with the Calder Foundation, would install 10 to 15 sculptures on a rotating basis over an initial 12-year period beginning in 2001.

Ordinary was rotated out May 2006 to the plaza in front of Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building on 56th & Park Avenue in NYC
Philadelphia is the only City in the world where THREE GENERATIONS OF CALDER CAN BE FOUND SO PROMINENTLY FEATURED.

Alexander Sandy Calder (1898-1976) was the third generation of an accomplished artistic family from Philadelphia whose work can already be seen in dramatic succession along the Parkway.

His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder (1846-1943), who emigrated to Philadelphia from Scotland, created some 300 sculptural decorations adorning City Hall, including the bronze statue of William Penn (1886-1894) that stands atop the clock tower.

His father, Alexander Stirling Calder (1870-1945), who was born in Philadelphia, created the Swann Memorial Fountain (1924) at Logan Circle, and many other sculptures throughout the city. At the western end of the Parkway, Alexander Calder’s ethereal mobile Ghost (1964) is suspended in the great stair hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Alexander S. C. Rower, Director of the Calder Foundation, said: “I can think of no more appropriate place to celebrate the greatness of my grandfather’s work. It is extraordinary in this urban garden and underscores the remarkable place that generations of my family hold in the city of Philadelphia.”

According to a press release (link here) "The Pew Charitable Trusts is proud to support this magnificent display of sculptures by Philadelphia's own Alexander Calder," said Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. "What a wonderful contribution these works provide to a renewed Benjamin Franklin Parkway, for the benefit of our residents and an ever-growing number of visitors."
And then perhaps because of the economy things changed because as I passed 22nd and the Parkway yesterday morning on my way to work
I saw they were dismantling and
flat bedding the Calder Sculptures, and it
didn't look like they were rotating anything back inWhen I walked home after work my fears were confirmed. I asked a source on the scene what happened to the sculptures. She said the funding ran out and they were being returned to their owners, and the City didn't have the money to fund the upkeep of the park anymore. (Is that true, I mean we're just about to go into summer and that's a frightening thought?)I asked why this one was still on site, do we get to keep this one at least? No,her husband said, he had heard that the flat bed was packed and that they would be back Wednesday AM to cart it away.
Where was the Three Discs, One Lacking (1968) I wondered since it's owned by the City of Philadelphia. Where did it go?
As I was leaving my source told me he noticed that the several homeless people have already come by to drop their bags near their future home, er bench. I hate to say it, but I would like the benches in the former Calder Park removed until the City finishes what they set out to do decades ago and make the Parkway a viable destination. How long until this is the tent city it once was before the Calder Park was created?Tomorrow the electricity is turned off on the guard house and the guard will be reassigned. I suggest they dismantle it too, as it could turn into a nuisance.
I think what really makes me sad, besides losing art work on the Parkway, is that I never appreciated the sculpture that replaced Ordinary and I didn't have any photos of it even though I passed it every day. I am thankful the funding for the Barnes Museum went through, and although they will have an empty lot to look at across the street, I'm hopeful they will put a few sculptures in their front yard. Please read the GOOD NEWS comment from my friend David from Cappricio's Cafe Cret and The Inquirer has since done an article:


phillytim said...

WOW - we are probably returning to the times where it gets a bit frightening to cross through this deserted, grassious field at night. Otherwise, this is an unfortunate loss to the Parkway. Great collage, as always, HughE; and great to see you last night!!

Anonymous said...

Thankfully the Iroquois was bought by an anonymous doner and donated to the City. Hopefully there's a caveat that says the City can never sell it.

Stephen said...

What a scoop, no one has this story but you and Philberty. Why was there no notice?

Andrew J. Rosenthal said...

Wow - had no idea of the change. I think you "broke" this story -- thanks for bringing it to everyones' attention.


Anonymous said...

Here's what happened - I got this information from Councilman Green's office who spoke to the Public Art Director in the Philadelphia Public Property Department ... the Calder statues were part of a temporary exhibit funded by Pew Charitable Trust and the Art Museum. The site will now be used for temporary public exhibits. The Calder statue(s) that are owned by the City will be moved to 17th & The Parkway.

Kevin said...

If that were true where is the press release which would have come out by now celebrating the public space's future? Also why would they cut electricity to the park if there is future use in the works?

David said...


The one sculpture, “Three Discs, One Lacking” which was owned by the city was moved to the park at Capriccio @ Café Cret and placed today. We are very excited to have that as an addition to the café park, along with the Henry Moore “Three-Way Piece Number 1: Points, and the stone statue of the “Prophet”.


Anonymous said...

It looked nice. I grew up in Fairmount. I went to St Francis Xavier grade school. We walked out the parway everyday to go to high school, at Hallahan. There was nothing there then.

Anonymous said...

Calder's legacy is so overated anyway.

akabak said...

Sad to see the park end. I thought after the 'Ordinary' piece was removed, that the site was diminished in importance. Having a 'Stabile' sculpture in Philadelphia was actually more important than it was having the entire Calder museum project. Losing Calder's moving sculpture was the greatist loss to the Parkway's art ambitions, metaphorically and otherwise. The remainder of the sculptures, and the replacement of the park's centerpiece was never enough to breathe life into the Calder museum project. The money part of the Calder museum should have been more open to other options when negotiating with the owners of the artworks. The museum could have been built with the concept of 'rotating' sculptures to the very prominant location every few years. A contemporary sculpture project should be an aspect of the Parkway. Go to Storm King Art Center to see how it's really done.
Also: Please - whoever posted the panorama of the park that was used as the lead photo for the article. I'm not trying to be overly critical but please fix the imagery so that it looks somewhat decent from photo to photo and repost it, or consider taking it down from the site.

Anh said...

Good riddance! They were ugly eye sores! More lights, not junk!