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: