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Calder's jewelry gets to shine

July 24, 2008|From the Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Think of Alexander Calder, and the first thing to come to mind probably would be the suspended abstract sculptures that silently orbit above the heads of museumgoers around the world.

Though best known for those enormous yet graceful creations his friend and fellow artist Marcel Duchamp coined as "mobiles," Calder also created approximately 1,800 one-of-a-kind pieces of handmade jewelry throughout his artistic career.

About 100 of those rarely seen necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings and tiaras are on display at the exhibit "Calder Jewelry" in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's new Perelman Building.

Most are owned by the Calder Foundation, and the rest are from museums and private owners.

"He was working with wire all his life," said Elisabeth Agro, the show's curator. "He first started making jewelry for his sister's dolls."

The exhibition -- the first dedicated solely to Calder's jewelry -- opened this month and runs through Nov. 2 in Philadelphia. It then travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin after that.

Calder, who died in 1976 at age 78, made much of his jewelry as gifts for family -- his wife in particular -- and friends. He also counted art-world icons such as Peggy Guggenheim and Georgia O'Keeffe among his devotees, as well as the wives of artists Joan Miro, Marcel Duchamp, Luis Bunuel and Marc Chagall.

"Making jewelry was very personal for him, and each piece exists as a unique work," said Alexander S.C. Rower, Calder's grandson and head of the New York-based Calder Foundation.

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