Rachel Harrison Receives the Calder Prize at a Rooftop Ceremony With Sweeping Views of Venice's Grand Canal

Rachel Harrison Receives the Calder Prize at a Rooftop Ceremony With Sweeping Views of Venice's Grand Canal
"A lot of people ask me what the Calder Prize is," Sandy Calder, grandson of the late sculptor Alexander Calder and head of the Calder Foundation, said from a dais atop the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice Wednesday morning. "Aside from the cash prize, it is basically a reminder of what Calder did and the effect of Calder on contemporary art." This year the prize was given to the celebrated artist Rachel Harrison, whose work collapsing sculpture and painting into raw hybrid totems might be thought of as carrying on the legacy of Calder's vividly painted stabiles and mobiles.

The three previous winners of the Calder Prize have been Tara Donovan, Zilvinas Kempinas, and Thomas Saraceno — "all contemporary artists who have threads from Calder that might not be obvious," Sandy Calder said. "But we want you to know what these threads are all about." The prize, he said, comes with a chance to work "in my grandfather's studio" in Saché, France, as well as the aforementioned $50,000 prize.

Speaking of that: "Rachel wants a really big check," Calder said from the stage, jokingly. "We're going to do that at a separate ceremony in New York."

The crowd that assembled on the rooftop garden — covered in large white umbrellas and bathed in a light mist that blew off the adjacent canal after a morning rain shower — included Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong, Pompidou director Alfred Pacquement, Bard ICCS director Tom Eccles, Whitney curator Scott Rothkopf, and dealers Carol Greene and Matthew Marks (the former of whom represents Harrison, while the latter has included her in group shows).

Harrison herself, her bright red hair the same hue as that of the "Little Mermaid" doll perched on her sculpture included in the Guggenheim Foundation's exhibition downstairs (an artwork that itself uncannily matches the color of two Josef Albers paintings in the same room), was characteristically demure when approached for a comment on her win. Did she have something to say about the honor? "No," said the artist, who does not allow photographs of herself to be published. "And you can quote me on that."