Thursday, November 5, 2009

Calder Jewelry, and the Calder Headboard

A Calder-Guggenheim Story

Picasso's friend and biographer John Richardson was here last week to deliver the Axline Lecture. Over the days he was here, we spent a lot of time wandering around the galleries together, and I spent a lot of time soaking in all the great stories he told. Here's one of them.

As we wandered through the Calder Jewelry exhibition, John saw the large photograph of Peggy Guggenheim wearing a pair of Calder earrings. He recalled that Peggy Guggenheim was a great fan of Calder and that in addition to all the jewelry she owned, she also commissioned Calder to make a bed headboard for her. This was very similar to the jewelry: made of twisted wire in abstract and animal shapes, with moving parts. It still exists and is on view at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, where it is exhibited in the room that used to be her bedroom.

What isn't usually part of the story told about the headboard, though, is that Peggy Guggenheim didn't like it. Why, one asks? Apparently, when things began to heat up in the bedroom (a not infrequent event if one believes the rumors about her love life), the headboard's movable metal parts created too much of a racket.

-John Marciari, Curator of European Art

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