Alexander Calder had to overcome several obstacles in the creation of what would become one of his greatest works. The American artist, who revolutionized the world of sculpture in the 1930s, found out that Picasso’s Guernica was due to be put on show at the Spanish pavilion of the 1937 Universal Exhibition in Paris. Desperate to feature near the genius from Malaga, he immediately contacted the organizers and offered to display one of his works at the pavilion. The reply was a rejection, and the reason: he was not Spanish. Later, they changed their minds when they realized that a fountain intended for the pavilion and which had arrived from Seville, having been used at another exhibition in 1929, needed some alterations.
Photo: Fundació Joan MiróWith echoes of the mercury fountains that had once adorned the Moorish palaces of Al-Andalus, Calder put his personal vision into practice. Using as a basis the pre-existing spout and pool, he built an arrangement of basins one on top of the other. He also added one of his famous mobiles (structures in balanced movement) featuring a red circle and the word “Almadén”, referring to the mercury mines of the same name in Ciudad Real province. This was a site of great symbolic and economic value in the fight against the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. This homage to the struggling Republic measured almost two metres in height and the same in diameter, and was entitled Mercury Fountain.
In 1939 the mines were taken by the rebel forces and at around this time the sculpture disappeared from the site where it had been installed in the French capital. Much later, in 1975, the Calder Foundation gave an exact replica to the Miró Foundation and this work can be observed behind glass at the Foundation’s building in Barcelona. There you can feel what the blog Elzo-Meridianos defines as “its slow, unrepeatable, toxic flow” thanks to a constant temperature and the 6,831 kilos of quicksilver donated by the mining company and valued at around 9,000 Euros.