Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
Stunning Banners Designed by World-Renowned Artist on Display at Parkway Central Library
Banner artist Alexander Calder has strong family ties to some of Philadelphia’s most prominent public artwork
PHILADELPHIA, January 6, 2009—The recent installation of four majestic banners in The Parkway Central Library’s Main Lobby highlights Philadelphia’s ties to a strong family legacy of artwork.
Alexander Calder, the artist who created the four banners, was born into an artistically gifted family in 1898 in a small town near Harrisburg, PA. His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder, sculpted the William Penn statue atop City Hall, as well as many of the other sculptures that adorn the outside of the building. Calder’s father, Alexander Stirling Calder was the prominent Philadelphia artist who created the Swann Memorial Fountain, a lively public fountain located in the center of Logan Square. The youngest Calder, inventor of the mobile and a world-renowned artist who created works of art in many media, exhibited his exceptional talent early in his childhood while assembling kinetic animal figures out of brass sheets.
The banners date back to 1975, when Jack Wolgin, the developer of Centre Square, commissioned Calder to create eight banners and an armature from which they would hang. Works by Claes Oldenburg and Jean Dubuffet completed the commission, which fulfilled the Redevelopment Authority’s requirement for public art. Sheila Hicks, a prominent fabric artist in Paris, sewed the banners, which were then displayed for six years in the lobby of Centre Square.
During a renovation in 1982, the banners were stored for safekeeping. When the building changed ownership, however, the banners could not be located. At the encouragement of Susan Davis, the former Director of the Public Art Program of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia, a search through the building’s many storage areas was conducted in the 1990s, and the banners were found.
The Free Library is delighted that four of the original eight banners will be enjoyed by thousands of visitors for the first time in almost 30 years, once again fulfilling their original role of a public art installation. The remaining banners, which have heights measuring more than 26 feet and are too long to display in the Main Lobby, are currently in storage.
As part of Parkway Central’s Print and Picture Collection, the Free Library owns four prints by Alexander Calder—two of which are on display in Parkway Central’s H.O.M.E. Page Café, along with a print on loan from the Locks Gallery.
# # #
With more than 6 million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.
Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850