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Sculpture Becomes Target In Senate Building

April 3, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Somebody is tossing coins and paper airplanes at a Alexander Calder sculpture that has just been hung from the ceiling of a Senate office building.

Whoever is doing it - some suspect Senate aides and tourists - is causing a problem for Capitol architects, who say while they expected some problems, they never envisioned the tricky task of keeping the massive artwork clean.

The four black aluminum clouds of the mobile, ″Mountains and Clouds,″ have been hanging from the ceiling of the Hart Office Building’s atrium for several weeks.

The computer-driven clouds have become irresistible to people on walkways overlooking the atrium on the building’s seventh and eighth floors. Though way out of reach, the cloudscape is just a stone’s throw - or, in this case, a penny’s or paper plane’s throw - away.

″I think it’s inappropriate,″ former Sen. Nicholas Brady, R-N.J., said of the coin and paper plane tossing.

Brady, who heads the committee that raised $400,000 to install the piece, said he doubts his former Senate colleagues would desecrate the ″last earthly work″ of an American master. Calder died in 1976, the day after he delivered the scale ″maquette″ of the proposed piece to the Capitol.

″Most of the senators are very proud of it,″ Brady said.

He believes young Senate aides or the hundreds of daily visitors may be the culprits.

Capitol cleaning crews are toying with employing a giant magnet to empty the airborne wishing well. Recently, crews stretched a long length of twine from one end of the atrium to the other, drawing it across the clouds to knock the debris off.

How would the artist feel about the target practice?

″I have a feeling he would have liked the idea,″ said Jean Lipman, author of ″Calder’s Universe″ and a personal friend of Calder.

She said the sculptor often urged that his works be touched ″gently.″ As long as the pitched pennies don’t chip the clossal clouds, Mrs. Lipman doesn’t think Calder would have minded at all.

When completed, Calder’s work will comprise the four giant clouds and a jagged range of 57-foot-high mountains on the floor below.

The work is scheduled to be completed by summer, fashioned from a model hand-built by the American sculptor.

The mountains are being fashioned in the Connecticut foundry that has executed many of Calder’s giant outdoor works.

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