LACMA’s Great Calder Fountain Will Get a New, Improved Home

The monumental mobiles will once again create an exuberant entrance to the museum.

Three Quintains (1964), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1966 Photo Courtesy of: Calder Foundation, New York Artist Copyright: © 2017 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

When the Los Angeles County Museum of Art expands across Wilshire Boulevard, a key part of the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s $650 million transformation of its campus will be to move Alexander Calder‘s monumental fountain Three Quintains (Hello Girls) south, across the street, artnet News has learned. 

Commissioned by the fledgling southern Californian institution in 1964 and installed by the artist for its grand opening the following year, Hello Girls created a splashy, colorful, and kinetic welcome to the museum. Original features included a walkway between the exuberant, jet-propelled water feature. The downside was that on a windy day visitors could get drenched.

Three Quintains (1964), Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo Courtesy of: Calder Foundation, New York Artist Copyright: ©2017 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

LACMA director Michael Govan says that Zumthor is planning a modern pool for the work as it relocates to a new, south entrance of the museum, which for the first time will span Wilshire Boulevard. However, the fountain’s site cannot be too exposed, otherwise strong winds could be a problem. In addition to being earthquake proof like the rest of LACMA’s new build, the institution has learned the hard way that the new Calder pool needs to be well built—and away from the La Brea tar pits. The original pools surrounding the LACMA buildings were drained as oil kept seeping in, which also played havoc with the workings of Calder’s fountain. After being decommissioned in the 1980s, the fountain returned to a different site on the edge of the campus. The jets were repaired and the mobiles repainted in 2009.

“Michael Govan is doing something extraordinary with the Zumthor expansion at LACMA. I am particularly excited by the prospect of my grandfather’s magnificent water-propelled installation returning to a place of public visibility and its integration into the master plan,” says Alexander Rower, the president of the Calder Foundation.

Peter Zumthor's new LACMA design extends over the street to a museum parking lot. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

Peter Zumthor’s new LACMA design extends over the street to a museum parking lot. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

In its planned new location, even without a bridge over the pool—which would be an issue given modern health and safety regulations—Calder’s Hello Girls is set to become a LACMA landmark once again. It is LACMA’s only monumental work to be affected by the Zumthor building, the construction of which moved a step closer after David Geffen’s $150m pledge in October. Chris Burden’s Urban Light, Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, and Robert Irwin‘s palm trees are staying put on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard.


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