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VM inspiration: Peggy Guggenheim's bedhead

Creating an interesting hybrid between art and interior design, American art patron and heiress Peggy Guggenheim (1898 – 1979) commissioned this silver bedhead from her friend, sculptor Alexander Calder (1922 – 1976) for the bedroom in her Venetian palazzo. The home is now an art gallery, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection - on Venice’s Grand Canal.

Made of silver in 1945 - 46, and entitled ‘Winter,’ the bedhead is an unusual but pleasing piece of Calder’s work.

Better known for his primary-coloured mobiles, created as a form of moving sculpture, Calder’s work was designed to respond to touch or to moving air currents. He also created wire figures, to be thought of as drawings in space. His pond scene for Guggenheim can similarly be read as a two dimensional drawing in silver. Containing two fishes, a dragonfly and flowers, it evokes pond life under the water, in the air above the pond, and on the pond surface.

The spirals might be imagined as the rings on the water.

From a family of sculptors and artists, US-born Calder studied mechanical engineering, working as a hydraulic engineer and draughtsman for some years before deciding to pursue art and settling in France. While most of his work may be described as abstract sculpture, both in large scale and as a variety of mobiles ranging from small to giant scaled, he also created jewelery, a circus of wire figures and stage sets, and illustrated poems and short stories. Seen in this light, the decorative piece for Guggenheim seems coherent to his body of work: capturing a moment in time together with the iconic elements of a pond.

Towards the end of his career Calder also designed the ‘flying canvas,’ the bodywork of a DC-8.62 plane, and the first of BMW’s art cars.

Guggenheim, seen here with one of her much loved dogs, slept in a fine four poster bed perfectly framing the 2D sculpture. The image suggests how such panels might be used in VM, perhaps in confined retail spaces where an opportunity for decoration congruent to the brand would add interest, or in shallow store windows. The Peggy Guggenheim collection includes many other must-sees of inspiration to visual merchandisers – do visit.