Calder: Radical Inventor Exhibition Review

Art, Montreal

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is presenting the first major Canadian retrospective of the work of Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976), the American 20th century artist known for putting art in motion with his mobiles. Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor is on now at the MMFA until February 24th, 2019. 


As an art historian going to art exhibitions is one of my favourite things to do. Now that I’m no longer in school and writing about art all the time I thought it would be a nice idea to write little exhibition reviews here to stay connected to the arts as well as let people know what there is to do in Ottawa and other cities I visit. I’m going to keep the review short though because I don’t like to spoil it too much.


As a fan of Calder’s work I was very excited to see this exhibition. The exhibition presents 150 work including archival documents, paintings, drawings and sculptures spanning his career. The exhibition pays particular attention to Calder’s monumental sculpture Trois disques from Montreal’s Expo 67 that is still on view on l’île Sainte-Hélène.


As someone already familiar with Calder’s work I was surprised by the exhibition. There were aspect of his career and different styles of artworks that I had never seen before. If you’re a fan of his mobiles then you’ll be able to see lots of those and have the opportunity to see them up close and appreciate how they move. The installations casts shadows on the walls so you can see the different dimensions of the sculptures and the aspect of motion in his work. Hopefully when you see the exhibition you’ll gain a better appreciation for his talents when seeing the other non-mobile works too. For instance, Calder’s paintings and works on paper are often overlooked in my opinion but the exhibition allows visitors to appreciate another aspect of his talent with the works presented. Additionally you’ll be able to learn about his early career and fascination with the circus. This was something I never knew about and it was one of my favourite parts of the exhibition.



I throughly enjoyed this exhibition and how it was presented to give better insight into Calder’s life, talents and his connection to the city of Montreal. Before leaving the exhibition I got to experience one of his mobiles in a completely new and dynamic way. At the entrance to the exhibition is one of Calder’s mobiles with a circular couch underneath the slowly spins. Visitors are encouraged to lay down underneath and view the sculpture from below and in motion. Calder’s work marries art, movement and nature and the exhibition allows visitors who may not be familiar with his work, and even those who are, to gain a better understanding of one of the greatest and most inventive artists of the 20th century.


Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor is on at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from September 21st, 2018 – February 24th, 2019.


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