Public Sculpture in Grand Rapids

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La Grand Vitesse

Artist: Alexander Calder
Medium: Steel
Dimensions: 43’ high x 54’ long x 30’ wide
Location: Calder Plaza on Ottawa Avenue NW adjacent to City Hall

A plaque near the sculpture reads, in part:

“The steel abstraction was named ‘La Grande Vitesse’ by the artist himself. The name means ‘great swiftness,’ a reference to the river that flows through the heart of the city.

“Commissioned in 1967 to be installed on Vandenberg Plaza, site of the city and county administration buildings, the completed work was dedicated to Grand Rapids by the artist in June 1969. It was the first piece of public art in America to be financed entirely through the combination of a National Endowment for the Arts Grand and private funds.

“As he worked on ‘La Grande Vitesse,’ Alexander Calder developed close ties to Grand Rapids. Later he produced other art works for the city. His ‘Festival Sun’ was adapted as a symbol for the city’s annual festival of the arts celebration. In 1974 he created the ‘Calder on the Roof’ as a gift to the people of Grand Rapids. The colorful abstract painting covers the roof of the Kent County administration building and can be seen from the upper floors of surrounding buildings.”

The sculpture serves as a distinctive landmark and symbol of the city. Its likeness can be found on the city letterhead, street signs, and vehicles. Technically speaking, the sculpture is known in the art world as a "stabile'' - a stationary sculpture that uses multiple flat planes to give the appearance of volume and movement. A related work, the world’s largest Calder painting, covers the 127- square foot rooftop of the County Building and may be viewed from the upper floors of surrounding buildings including City Hall.

© 2023 Public Sculpture in Grand Rapids. Catalog database by Index Projects