- I think speaking purely from my perspective as an architect, the commissioning of sculptural objects in architectural setting is a very difficult problem, largely because of scale.
As our buildings get bigger and bigger, and that's been the trend ever since the beginning of the 20th century, sculpture has to scale to size.
For me, there's a limit to how big you can make a human figure.
I remember having seen David in Florence and I was not happy with it.
I thought it was too big.
'Cause it's a human figure and there's a limit to how big you can blow up a human figure.
It begins to look a bit uncomfortable.
So therefore, commissioning of monumental sculpture in the early days is you look for heroes and therefore you want to commemorate that hero in his image.
But because there's a limit to how big you can make that image.
So, abstract sculpture came into play.
And that I think is the key to Calder and others, including Henry Moore.
Henry Moore always said time and time again, "The human figure is the beginning of my inspiration.
"All my pieces reflected that."
There are pieces that are much more lifelike than other pieces and there are pieces because the more lifelike they are, more like human figures, the less likely it will be successful if you make it very, very big.
Now at National Gallery, we commissioned Knife Edge, two pieces.
There's nothing you can associate possibly with those two pieces to a human figure.
And hence it could make very big.
But Calder's stabile.
Stabile has no limit to scale, almost no limit to scale.
You can make it huge if you wanted to, because they do not remind you of a face, of a torso, or anything of that kind.
So, abstract sculpture became much more likely to be commissioned for that kind of architectonic setting.
The same goes for Picasso.
To do the Sylvette that I commissioned at NYU, I worried in the beginning a lot about the fact that it's a face of a lady.
But because it's so abstract, it loses that kind of relationship that you find in Benjamin Franklin standing on top of a column or maybe Augustus on a horse.
It's not that kind of association.
It became abstract.
Once a piece becomes abstract, there are possibilities of enlargement.
So, the scale of buildings had a lot, and scale of spaces have a lot to do with commissioning sculpture as a work.
- [Interviewer] And do you think Calder had a role in that transformation?
- [Interviewer] And what was that?
- It's just because his work is abstract and also lend themselves to industrial method of production.
Bronzes, for instance.
The bigger they become, the more difficult is to cast and more costly.
But steel plates like building a ship has very few limits.
I think the European influence on American architecture became quite pronounced in the '30's with the arrival of Gropius and Breuer and then Le Corbusier and his writings.
American architecture was undergoing a very, very abrupt change at that time.
And Calder, Sandy, he himself is half, part European.
There's no doubt about that.
Fitted in perfectly.
And he was very at home with it.
And his work seemed to fit in very well.
Calder came from a line of artists, sculptors.
I think his father made the very important piece in front of the City Hall in Philadelphia, I believe.
That statue was made by Calder's father.
So, he came from that tradition, along with other artists in Europe.
He was not the only one.
Along with many other artists in Europe.
They were experimenting on new ideas in the field of sculpture.
I don't include my friend Henry Moore in that category, but I would include people like Picasso, Noguchi, a few people like that.
They were trying, they were experimenting, but I don't believe they thought in terms of big architectural scale.
But they were expressing themselves, artistically speaking, in sculptural forms.
And they were experimenting.
And Calder is one of the few in the beginning of 20th century that started it.
But the architectural sculpture came later, 'cause the commissioning was not a possibility in those days.
But later on it became one.
So, several artists started to think in terms of scale, relationship of the sculptural work to the scale of modern buildings.
And Calder's stabile was very much a result of that.
Another person that did something similar is Picasso.
You think of Picasso as a sculptor only doing these wonderful heads and little things that he made and objets trouve and that sort of thing.
But actually he was very much concerned about scale of sculpture in relationship with buildings.
His concrete sculpture, of which I had the privilege of having one made for NYU downtown, was very much Picasso's way of thinking in terms of something that can be enlarged to a very big scale.
Very, very important.