Alexander Calder's Red Lily Pads (Nénuphars rouges, 1956) (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York ©; 2017 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)
Alexander Calder’s monumental mobile Red Lily Pads will return in February to the rotunda of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, to hang above its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed, oval-shaped fountain. Conservators are putting the finishing touches to the restoration of the 1956 painted steel sculpture ahead of its reinstallation for the exhibition celebrating the foundation’s 80th anniversary, Visionaries: Creating the Modern Guggenheim (10 February-6 September).
The artist originally installed the work for his 1964 retrospective so low that it was hit by the coins that visitors were fond of throwing into the fountain—a practice now forbidden. “It had scars all over it,” says Carol Stringari, the Guggenheim’s deputy director and chief conservator. “We had to reverse-engineer the paint,” she says. Working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s scientific department to analyse the original paint, the Guggenheim created a precise match with the company Golden Artist Colours to restore the mobile’s easily chipped, matte paint surface. Some of the work’s connecting hooks had become bent over the years, but the kinetic sculpture has now regained its original equilibrium. Grants from the Friends of Heritage Preservation and the Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation made the three-year project possible. It included visits to Calder’s work in other leading museums, as well as the archives of the Calder Foundation.