0639 GMT February 25, 2020
One of about 100 works, 'Acrobats', will make up the Tate Modern show exploring Calder who is among the most important artists of the last century. He is perhaps best known for inventing the mobile, a delicate type of moving sculpture that moves in response to touch or air currents, the Guardian reported.
The wire work depicts a female acrobat that was effectively 'trashed' when someone snipped the woman's leg because they needed some wire for a repair, said Calder's grandson Sandy Rower.
There may have been no malicious intent but the artist was devastated. "My grandfather couldn't believe that somebody would attack one of his sculptures," said Rower, who runs the foundation set up after the American artist's death in 1976.
The two acrobats were separated and found their way into private collections. Rower said the foundation had acquired the two figures, reunited them and replaced the missing leg after analyzing the metal and studying photographs from the time.
"Calder was broken-hearted that someone would trash his sculpture," said Rower. "He could have made another leg and reinvigorated it but he hated bad news. And he hated old news, he was always looking forward … repairing something was really not part of his vocabulary."
The incident reflects the fragile nature of the works — particularly the mobiles. It has led to Tate Modern not only imploring visitors not to touch the works, but not to blow on them either.
Calder began making his wire sculptures in Paris in the 1920s, and evolved to motorized mobiles in the 1930s. The name 'mobile' is attributed to Marcel Duchamp after he saw them for the first time.
Early viewers of the sculptures, many of which depicted circus and burlesque characters, did not know what to make of them, said Rower. "Today we look at these works and we understand they are sculpture but in 1929 it was 'what the hell is that? It's not marble, it's not carved … it's wire'."
The Tate Modern show is the biggest to be staged in the UK and deliberately not a retrospective, said co-curator and Tate Modern director of exhibitions Achim Borchardt-Hume. "There are some artists who have such a complex and great body of work that it almost seems absurd to make a retrospective."
A large number of works are being lent by the foundation, and the remaining works come from private collections and 18 institutional collections.