Planes and automobiles

French auctioneer and racer Herve Poulain commissioned Calder to paint the car Poulain was going to use in the 1974 La Mans 25 Hour race. When Calder passed away in 1976, the car became one of the very last of the artist's works.

Image: BMW Art Car Image: BMW Art Car

Calder was the first of what would become a list of artists who would be commissioned to paint the BMW Art Car. Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons have all created their own version of this special BMW.

For his version, Calder used his signature primary colors palette for the paintwork of the BMW 3.0 CSL. Calder attend the Le Mans race to see Sam Posey, Jean Guichet and Herve Poulain race his creation. After seven hours, the car was taken out of the race due to damage, and since it has been in exhibit, never to be driven again.

"I want to make things that are fun to look at, that have no propaganda value whatsoever." -Alexander Calder Selden Rodman, Conversations with Artists (New York, 1957)

Image: BMW Art Car Image: BMW Art Car

The “Flying Colors of South America” 1973 brochureImage: Chris Sloan The “Flying Colors of South America” 1973 brochure
Image: Chris Sloan

In 1973, Calder painted a passenger jet for Braniff South American Airlines which was called ''Flying Colors of the United States.'' The previous year, George Stanley Gordon from Gordon and Shortt advertising agency offered Calder the chance to paint an aircraft. Intrigued by Gordon's assurance that it would make Calder's piece the largest flying artwork, no doubt appealing to the engineer and artist, Calder accepted the commission.

 Alexander Calder and advertising executive George Stanley Gordon with model for Calder's planeImage: Braniff Flying Colors Collection Alexander Calder and advertising executive George Stanley Gordon with model for Calder's plane
Image: Braniff Flying Colors Collection


Calder reimagined sculpture and the pushed the limits of moveable artwork with his kinetic mobiles, so it's no surprise his artistic philosophies ended themselves perfectly to jewelry. Georgia O’Keeffe and Peggy Guggenheim were just some of the names in the art world who adorned themselves with his pieces, which range from earrings, bracelets, headdresses, necklaces and brooches. The modernist pieces were extremely unconventional - made of silver or brass wire, the pieces were oversized and feature no precious stones or gems, catching the eyes of the avant-gardes in search of something new.

Photo: Brooke Shields, 1985, edition of 15. Sheila Metzner, ©2016 Calder Foundation, New York, Photo ©Sheila Metzner Photo: Brooke Shields, 1985, edition of 15. Sheila Metzner, ©2016 Calder Foundation, New York, Photo ©Sheila Metzner

Spirals and zigzags, hammered and bent metal, all of Calder's pieces were one-off and hand-crafted, often created with a specific wearer in mind as many of his brooches featured initials or names. Innovative Calder never used solder - all fixings and fittings were crafted out of bent silver, brass and on the odd occasion, gold although he preferred non-precious materials.

And really big (and really small) sculptures

Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1976 Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1976

Last May, nine sculptures by the Master of Mobiles, Alexander Calder, went on display at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The exhibition, which ran until until September 2017, was the largest outdoor collection of Calder's work ever to be seen in the West and pieces in the display span from 1956 to 1976.

Sculpture by Alexander Calder featured nine pieces on loan from both museums and the Calder Foundation and was the only time and place all pieces had ever been displayed together.

Calder's grandson and chairman of the Calder Foundation, Alexander S.C. Rower has curated the exhibition in partnership with Alfred Pacquement, former director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris.

The exhibition gave viewers the chance to see Calder's pieces in an organic space, the intention behind Calder's concepts as his mobiles were meant to be driven by natural forces. At first, Calder's mobiles were motorized, but he quickly realized that he could propel his works through ambient air currents.

As well as large-scale sculpture commissions, Calder was known for his small mobiles, which are often smaller than 5 inches.


One of the most expensive works ever sold at auction by Calder was Poisson volant (Flying Fish) which sold at Christie's in 2014 for a staggering $25 925 000. The piece had been estimated to sell for $ 9 000 000 – 12 000 000. Check out more realized prices for Calder here.