A Calder Balancing Act

SFMOMA brass are going through hoops to keep cantankerous heirs of the sculptor happy

Former San Jose Mayor Janet Gray Hayes is the wife of Calder's nephew Kenneth Hayes and was a major lender to the Indianapolis Children's Museum show. She confirmed that her relatives tried to interfere in that city. "They boycotted and almost sabotaged the Indianapolis show," she said.

Gray Hayes, who is also a former board member of the San Jose Museum of Art, cited a letter from one of the sculptor's daughters complaining that the Indianapolis exhibition was not art but "Disneyland," and that the title, "Calder's Art: A Circus of Creativity," was "appalling" because the circus analogy belittled Calder's significance as a serious artist.

Helen Ferrulli, who organized the Indianapolis exhibition and will guest curate "Flying Colors: The Innovation and Artistry of Alexander Calder" at the San Jose Museum of Art from November 1997 to February 1998, says it's ridiculous to try to take the sense of play out of Calder's art. That's what makes the works a natural for educators; children instinctively respond to Calder. "There is something magical and universal about Calder," she says. "He draws the best out of everyone."

Well, maybe not everyone.
At the SFMOMA, the artist has drawn out some pretty petty behavior. A few days after SF Weekly began calling museum brass and store employees, a shop manager installed this sign in the employee break room: "Please do not discuss the Calder exhibit with anyone. This is privileged information. The press has been inquiring, and we could be held liable. Thank you for your cooperation.

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