A Monumental Gift to the Seattle Art Museum: The Calder Sculptures

Jon and Kim Shirley donated 48 Alexander Calder sculptures and a significant endowment to the Seattle Art Museum, significantly enhancing its collection and influence on Seattle’s cultural scene???.

Jon and Kim Shirley donated 48 Alexander Calder works and a $10 million endowment to the Seattle Art Museum.
The museum plans to dedicate Calder exhibitions, starting with a showcase of the newly acquired collection.
This gift enhances the museum's collection and underscores Calder's enduring influence on modern sculpture.

Transformative Calder Gift Reshapes Seattle Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum just got a huge gift that makes its art collection even better and is set to make a big difference in how the museum affects Seattle’s art scene. Jon and Kim Shirley, who have supported the museum for a long time, and Jon used to be a president at Microsoft, have given the museum an amazing set of 48 artworks by Alexander Calder, with substantial financial support.

The Significance of the Calder Collection

Alexander Calder, an American Modernist sculptor renowned for his inventive mobiles and wire sculptures, has left an indelible mark on the art world. The gift covers a large part of his work life, from 1927 to 1973, and includes various pieces from small table sculptures to big hanging ones. Highlights like the fun wire “Cow” sculpture from around 1930 and the special “Fish” from 1942 show Calder’s creative way of using different materials and how his art changed over time. This collection, worth around $200 million, is one of the world’s top collections of Calder’s art.

Financial Contributions and Their Impact

In addition to the artworks, the Shirleys are contributing a $10 million endowment and annual gifts ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. This funding is earmarked for Calder-centric programming, exhibitions, and research, ensuring that the museum can fully leverage the collection to engage and educate the public. An initial $1 million gift supports the inaugural exhibition of the collection, showcasing the breadth and depth of Calder’s genius.

The Exhibition and Future Plans

The Seattle Art Museum is set to dedicate its double-height gallery space to Calder-related exhibitions, starting with the display of Shirley’s gift. A planned group show in 2024 will explore Calder’s influence on contemporary sculptors, placing his work in dialogue with that of modern artists. This initiative not only celebrates Calder’s legacy but also positions the Seattle Art Museum as a center for the appreciation of modern sculpture.

A Broader Vision for Calder’s Legacy

The gift coincides with efforts by the Calder Foundation to establish Calder Gardens in Philadelphia, aimed at showcasing Calder’s work in his birthplace. This development and the Seattle Art Museum’s exhibitions highlight the enduring relevance and fascination with Calder’s art.

The Shirleys’ Commitment to SAM and the Arts

Jon and Kim Shirley’s contributions extend beyond this monumental gift. Their long history of support includes founding the museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park and securing Calder’s iconic “The Eagle” sculpture. Their dedication to the arts and strategic philanthropy exemplify a profound commitment to enriching Seattle’s cultural environment.

The Shirleys’ gift of Alexander Calder sculptures to the Seattle Art Museum is more than a donation; it’s a transformative act that redefines the museum’s role in the art world and its capacity to inspire and educate. Through their generosity, the Shirleys have ensured that Calder’s artistic innovations and legacy will continue to influence and delight audiences for generations to come.

Marilyn Walters

Marilyn Walters is a seasoned news journalist with over two years of experience in the field. Known for her investigative reporting and insightful analysis, Marilyn has covered significant global events with an objective lens. Her relentless pursuit of truth and dedication to journalistic integrity have established her as a respected voice in today's dynamic news landscape.

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