"Mountains and Clouds," two giant black steel sculptures designed by Alexander Calder shortly before he died in 1976, will be coming to the Hart Senate Office Building after all, thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of former New Jersey senator Nicholas F. Brady and two of his high-powered friends -- art collector and philanthropist Paul Mellon and banker and former Treasury secretary C. Douglas Dillon (courtesy of his family's philanthropic foundation, the Dillon Fund).
Calder was selected over three other notable sculptors by Hart Building architect John Carl Warnecke and Architect of the Capitol George White. The day before he died, Calder was in White's office to present a completed maquette showing how the pieces -- one a towering stabile with a jagged profile to rise about 55 feet from the floor, the other a mobile consisting of huge metal sheets to be suspended from the ceiling -- would fit into the atrium of the Hart building.
But the money for Calder's sculptures was cut from the budget (along with 32 other "nonessential" items) during the controversy over the building's costs. Brady, a wealthy Republican appointed in 1982 to serve out the nine months remaining in the term of Democratic Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr., resolved that the vast Hart atrium would not go unadorned. To that end he established the nonprofit Capitol Arts Foundation, an institution whose only activity so far has been to raise the approximately $400,000 necessary to get the Calder pieces built.
The motor-driven mobile, made by Crystallization Systems Inc. of Long Island, which constructed a similar Calder piece in the atrium of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, will be installed in late December, Brady reported. The stabile, manufactured by the Segre' Foundry, which handled many of the sculptor's large outdoor works in the United States, will follow in early January, he said.
Brady's office was in the Russell Building, but he said he often walked over to the Hart Building during the final phases of its construction. "You look at that well in the middle of the building," he said, "and you see it cries out for something. Otherwise they'll be playing softball or have dogs chasing frisbees in there." Of the Calder work, he said, "After all, this was the last earthly endeavor of one of the great American artists. If that isn't a cry from the heart, I don't know what is."
After leaving the Senate, Brady continued his public service as a member of the Presidential Commission on Strategic Forces and the President's National Bipartisan Commission on Central America (the Kissinger Commission). Before his Senate appointment, Brady, a fourth-generation Irish American, was chief executive officer of Dillon Read & Co., C. Douglas Dillon's New York investment firm.