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Artist friends share wall space at the Beyeler

Calder and Miró's friendship influenced their work. Pro Litteris

The friendship of Catalan artist Joan Miró and the American sculptor, Alexander Calder, is the subject of the Beyeler Foundation’s summer exhibition.

This content was published on May 10, 2004 - 10:41

By putting Calder’s mobiles together with Miró’s paintings, the museum aims to show how the artists’ relationship influenced their work.

Miró and Calder met at the end of 1928 in avant-garde Paris and they remained friends until Calder’s death in 1976.

Apart from championing each other’s art and exchanging works, the two men and their families often celebrated birthdays and exhibition openings together.

To many the friendship was incongruous. Calder was a big, bluff American who was the originator of the mobile, an abstract sculpture with moving parts. Miró was a small and dapper Catalan who was one of the foremost exponents of abstract and surrealist art.

But as the exhibition shows – by grouping together 70 mobiles and freestanding sculptures by Calder, and almost 60 paintings by Miró from the period 1920-1949 - their styles complemented each other.

“The media was quick to pick up as early as 1935 that Calders seemed like living Mirós, so the visual rhyming was clear even then,” said Elizabeth Hutton Turner, from The Phillips Collection in Washington.

Hutton Turner came up with the idea for the exhibition, which was then assembled in collaboration with guest curator, Oliver Wick, at the Beyeler Foundation just outside Basel.

Circus and toys

The exhibition aims to show themes that are common to the two artists such as the circus and toys, as well as art for public display.

Wick says there are two “core moments” that the artists share.

“One is this feeling for the humble materials, the joy of play and the wit that is in both works, and the other is a sensitivity for the large-scale, in painting and in sculpture,” he told swissinfo.

The culminating point – and chronological finale - of the exhibition is Miró’s “Cincinnati Mural” and Calder’s mobile “Twenty Leaves and an Apple”, which are both on loan for the first time.

A joint project by the artists, they were completed for the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati during Miró’s first trip to the United States in 1947.

Superior works

Another highlight, which is also being shown for the first time, is Miró’s frieze for the nursery of artist Pierre Loeb’s children.

“The fact that we were able to bring together superior works from these three crucial decades has been a monumental task and a wonderful success,” Hutton Turner told swissinfo.

For his part, Wick says that it is the fact that so many rare masterpieces are on show that makes the exhibition special.

“To see those paintings and sculptures as you see them here is probably something that will not be possible in the future,” said Wick.

“It is only possible due to the generosity of the lenders in parting with their artworks, some of which are extremely fragile and very large so it’s not sure whether they will travel again.”

The exhibition runs until September 5, 2004.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold in Basel

In brief

Joan Miró (1893-1983) and Alexander Calder (1898-1976) met in avant-garde Paris in 1928 and their friendship endured until Calder’s death in 1976.

The Calder-Miró exhibition runs from May 2- September 5, 2004 at the Beyeler Foundation.

The exhibition is being shown at the same time as, and in coordination with Schwitters Arp display at the Kunstmusuem Basel and Kurt Schwitters. Merz - a total vision of the world at the Museum Tinguely.

Both of these exhibitions end on August 22, 2004.

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