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11 / The Urban Experience

La grande vitesse
La grande vitesse
Artist / Origin Alexander Calder (American, 1898–1976)
Region: North America
Date 1969
Material Sheet metal, bolts, and paint
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions H: 43 ft. (13.1 m.), W: 55 ft. (16.8 m.), D: 25 ft. (7.6 m.)
Location Calder Plaza, Grand Rapids, MI
Credit Courtesy of the Tourism Department of the City of Grand Rapids

expert perspective

John BeardsleyDirector, Garden & Landscape Studies, Dumbarton Oaks

La grande vitesse

» Alexander Calder (American, 1898–1976)

expert perspective

John Beardsley John Beardsley Director, Garden & Landscape Studies, Dumbarton Oaks

People still approach sculpture in a public space as if it had a commemorative function, as if it were symbolic of shared ideals. So, in a sense, people still have very traditional expectations of what art in the public space should look like. And that’s not what artists do anymore. So even these things that are abstract can have a way of assuming a social role and can become icons in the visual environment of the city. I think back to a sculpture by Alexander Calder that was installed in Grand Rapids in the 1960s and that sculpture, and the silhouette of that sculpture, now adorns city stationary, city garbage trucks. So it’s become an icon or an emblem of the city.” 

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