The red spider: a giant creature that defies gravity

Araignée rouge

A strange red creature has been towering over visitors to La Défense since 1974... This work of art is the work of an internationally renowned name: Alexander Calder!

American artist Alexander Calder, an icon of modern art, marked a decisive turning point in his work during his stay in Paris. Trained as an engineer, Calder made a name for himself with his creation of the "Circus", an innovative staging of wire figures. In 1931, he joined the Abstraction-Création group, a collective of artists who wanted to revolutionize surrealism. And it wasn't just Calder who became famous in this group. The group also included such names as Jean Arp and Robert Delaunay!

Over the course of his career, Calder embarked on a dual artistic quest centered on abstraction and movement, resulting in various sculpture groups including the "Mobiles" and the "Stabiles". L'Araignée Rouge is part of the "Stabiles" series. A monumental work, made from metal plates welded and bolted together by the artist himself. Calder made it in 1974, especially for La Défense! The work is 15 metres high, 25 metres long and weighs over 60 tonnes.


The work is covered in a special red paint, called "Calder red", developed from the artist's gouaches. Like many of Calder's other works, whether mobile or stable, the Red Spider was fabricated in a workshop in Tours, from a model created by Calder. The artist supervised every stage of production and installation, ensuring the final appearance of the work. Its location was meticulously chosen and its proportions adjusted to the urban and architectural context at the time of its conception.

Read more about the work

This sculpture was in response to the developers' desire to highlight the main axis of the area with monumental works by internationally renowned artists. The aim was to give a new, international dimension to the La Défense district using contemporary art. It was also at this time that other works such as Agam's Monumental Fountain or Miro's Fantastic Characters arrived on the territory.

A twin in Chicago

The Red Spider establishes a link with other monumental works by Calder, including the Flamingo in Chicago, as well as creations such as L'Homme in Montreal and Four Arches in Los Angeles.

Both sculptor and painter, Alexander Calder was born in Philadelphia in 1898. For many years, he was fascinated by the theme of the circus, and even drew inspiration from it for a now-famous performance: the Calder Circus. He had the genius to transform sheet metal into a work of art and a tin can into a bird. He bridged the gap between surrealism, abstract art and more modern research, for which he was an avant-gardist.

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