Free Library Installs Colorful Abstract Banners Designed by Alexander Calder

By Alix G. RSS Thu, March 12, 2020

An exciting art installation is underway at Parkway Central Library! Two soaring, colorful banners, created by celebrated American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976), are now on display in the Robert and Eileen Kennedy Heim Center for Cultural and Civic Engagement.

The works are part of Calder’s series The Bicentennial Banners, which were commissioned by renowned real-estate developer and art collector Jack L. Wolgin, in partial fulfillment of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art Program during the creation of Centre Square in 1976. The series of eight unique, cotton canvas banners were originally created by Calder as gouache paintings, and then enlarged and executed as applique banners by fiber artist Sheila Hicks in her Paris studio. The Bicentennial Banners—which are between 6 and 8 feet wide and range from 18 feet 2 inches to 26 feet 8 inches long—are marked by colorful and abstract compositions.

Displayed in Centre Square until the 1980s, the banners spent years in storage before their rediscovery in the early 2000s. Four of the banners were showcased in the Grand Lobby of Parkway Central Library in 2009, when they were loaned for display by the then-owner. The banners were gifted anonymously to the Free Library in 2018.

Most appropriately, The Bicentennial Banners will join additional works by Calder, his father (Alexander Stirling Calder), and his grandfather (Alexander Milne Calder) that are prominently displayed along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Conservation of the remaining six banners is underway, and plans are being developed for the installation of additional banners at Parkway Central Library. The Free Library is planning a series of public programs—including educational programs and art workshops for children and adults—to commemorate the installation of The Bicentennial Banners later in 2020.

Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation. Other generous contributors to this project include the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, the Edna W. Andrade Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, and private donors.

Stay tuned for updates!


© 2020 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


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