Space | Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder

La Grande Voile (The Big Sail), 1965

Painted Steel


480 in. (1219.2 cm)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene McDermott

This public art tour is an investigation of the space within and around the select pieces of public art on MIT’s campus. Walk around, through, and under pieces to find different relationships and perspectives.

This tour was created by Joe Faraguna, Class of 2020 in Bioengineering. Faraguna was a List Center Student Guide for all four years of his undergraduate career. 

Calder oversaw the fabrication and installation of this full-scale sculpture based on the intermediate model in the Weisner Building from 1965-1966. The curvaceous steel sculpture weighs 33 tons, but the slim, scarce ground contacts give the structure a lofted feeling and belie its massive form. The mix of structural and decorative rivets underscore this playful tension between the monumental and the delicate. The structure references slender and organic forms: a poised insect with jutting legs, the wings of a butterfly, a taunt sail. For Calder, the physical elements of his stabiles also created a spatial form within them: “There is a solid form […] filling the dihedral angles between [the sheets of metal]. I do not have a definite idea of what this would be like, I merely sense it and occupy myself with the shapes one actually sees.” Walk around and under the sculpture. Do you feel distinct physical spaces? What shapes do you see when you look at the sculpture? Compare this work to viewing the intermediate model, how have the effects of implied movement shifted?


Building Number: McDermott Court

Accession Number: 1966.001