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Many frequent travelers I know have certain rituals or routines that punctuate their trips. Two different friends have each amassed a large collection of Starbucks city mugs. Others collect snowglobes or Hard Rock Café pins. I collect Alexander Calder.
Its not (for the most part) a physical collection – although I do own two handsigned epreuve d’artist (or artist’s proof) lithographs from his Our Unfinished Revolution series from the end of his career (1975-76) because I fell in love with “Octopus” (a print some consider to be one of his most bizarre works) and ended up buying “White Circles and Ellipses” in the same impulsive purchase one July weekend in Squaw Valley.
For me, its a mental collection, with repeated visits to some of my favorite mobiles and large stabile pieces – Chicago’s “Flamingo”, the mobile in the atrium at Pittsburgh International Airport, “The Arch” at New York’s Storm King Art Center, Sydney’s “Crossed Blades” Paris’ “The Red Spider”. I’ve sat underneath them, touched them, photographed them many times. I sometimes visit museums just to see a Calder (while staying to enjoy the remainder of the works) and I’ve traveled to visit special exhibitions. I even mourned the loss of “Bent Propeller”, destroyed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
But there is one Calder I struggle to visit because it’s just too painful – Seattle’s “Eagle”.
“Eagle” and I share much in common… we were both born in 1972 and we both spent our formative years in Fort Worth Texas. For me, “Eagle” was the first piece of art I fell in love with. It sat for 27 years outside of the former Fort Worth National Bank building. I got to visit her many times over the years – on downtown trips to my mother or father’s offices, shopping trips, and later while working downtown. But in 1999, locals learned the rough difference between true public art and publicly displayed private art. Our beloved “Eagle” was unbolted in the middle of the night and quietly transported to Pennsylvania, sold by a real estate company.
She eventually made her way west to the city of Seattle who has now adopted her as their own – a 10 million dollar purchase. And as I travel here frequently, I’m regularly reminded of that fact.
But no reminder will allow me to accept that she is owned by anyone. For me, Alexander Calder belongs to the people. And so I will continue to chase Alexander Calder across the globe – perhaps to capture a bit of my childhood, maybe just to stay in touch with the abstract, or perhaps just to meditate on the beauty of public art.