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Las Vegas Gallery Bets on a Calder Show


LAS VEGAS — Alexander Calder's family never dreamed that one day his mobiles, stabiles and wire sculptures would be displayed on the Las Vegas Strip, but they aren't disappointed.

"I think it's great that the exhibit's next to a craps table and down the hall from a wedding chapel," said Alexander Rower, Calder's grandson and director of the Calder Foundation. "Art can be intimidating. Calder's work belongs to everybody, not just art historians."

The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art will open Calder's "The Art of Invention" to the public today after postponing the show in October because of the Sept. 11 attacks.

One reason the foundation and Calder's family members agreed to lend some personal pieces to the exhibition--the "Rat" usually sits on Rower's mother's coffee table--was a belief that an art gallery in a Las Vegas resort would attract a different audience, Rower said.

"It's a really democratic audience," he said. "I want people to see the works."

Other pieces that are rarely seen publicly are the 1948 "Roxbury Fish," a hanging mobile made with wire, string, glass and ceramic fragments, and the 1950 "Panama," a hanging mobile with a 17-foot span that was commissioned for a hotel lobby in Panama, Rower said. Both will be exhibited for the first time in 25 years.

The exhibit will be on display daily through July 24 under the direction of PaperBall, which now manages Bellagio's gallery. PaperBall is a division of PaceWildenstein, a New York-based modern and contemporary art gallery.

Organized with the Alexander and Louisa Calder Foundation of New York, the retrospective features Calder's work from 1926 to 1976, and includes toys, jewelry and household objects.

Considered one of the great American sculptors of the 20th century, Calder began his career joining lengths of wire, instead of carving marble. By the 1930s, Calder had invented a new art form: the "mobile," which typically consists of a number of loosely connected pieces that move in response to air movement.

An inventor since childhood, the Philadelphia-born Calder made more than 19,000 objects during his 60-year career.

The show also marks the unveiling of the Bellagio's renovated 2,600-square-foot gallery.

"We've never had a sculptor in the past, and this is the first time the gallery has done a show devoted to one artist," said Andrea Bundonis, PaperBall president.

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