Built by internationally known architect Marcel Breuer in 1953, and housing Mid-Century Modern Art, our Central Library is expansive, open, and flooded with light. Bringing the outdoors in, extensive windows connect you to nature. Central is in the heart of the Grosse Pointes and is the gathering place for our community.
In 1932 Philadelphia-born Alexander Calder created the first of his moving sculptures, which were named “mobiles” by fellow artist Marcel Duchamp. The ingenuity, inventiveness, and humor of Calder’s’ mobiles have made them one of the most popular, enjoyable, and accessible forms of abstract sculpture. They are suspended from a central support, to which are attached various cantilevered arms bearing brightly colored biomorphic shapes. Sensitively balanced, the forms are set into motion by random air currents and seem to dance before the viewer in endless combinations. This work, a gift of W. Hawkins Ferry, was made in Calder’s studio in Roxbury, Connecticut, for the Grosse Pointe Library. While the play here of pure colored shapes and supports, placed at various heights and angles, is typical of Calder’s mobiles, the steel wire that swoops into midair without a shape at its tip is a particularly whimsical and unusual feature. The mobile adds color and movement to the airy space of the main reading room of this library, which is the only building designed by famed Hungarian-American architect Marcel Breuer (b. 1902) to be found in the Detroit area.
(Source: Art in Detroit Public Places by Dennis Alan Nawrocki with Thomas J. Hollerman. Copyright 1980)
Based on Wassily Kandinsky’s (1866 – 1944) Sur Fon Noir
Wassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow, the son of Lidia Ticheeva and Vasily Silvestrovich Kandinsky, a tea merchant. Kandinsky learned from a variety of sources while in Moscow. He studied many fields while in school including law and economics. Later in life, he would recall being fascinated and stimulated by color as a child. His fascination with color symbolism and psychology continued as he grew.
Kandinsky first likened painting to composing music writing, “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
As part of the original design process for the Library, Breuer designed a hand woven tapestry, made in Aubusson in Central France, which was created from designs and paintings by Bauhaus artist and Professor, Wassily Kandinsky. Based on the personal notes of W. Hawkins Ferry, the tapestry was not designed or created by Kandinsky (he died in 1944) but was created as a tapestry based on Kandinsky’s “Sur Fon Noir” or “On Black Background” series of paintings. The tapestry is roughly 6 feet by 8.5 feet and has many elements of Kandinsky’s later works – a softer palate set against black, large rectilinear fields and a smaller portion devoted to zoomorphic creatures. A bird appears to be perched at top.
Salute to Knowledge
Lyman Kipp (1929 – 2014)
Lyman Kipp (b 1929 Dobbs Ferry, New York) is a sculptor and painter who creates pieces that are comprised of strong vertical and horizontal objects and are often painted in bold primary colors recalling arrangements by De Stijl Constructivists. Kipp is an important figure in the development of the Primary Structure style which came to prominence in the mid-1960s.
W. Hawkins Ferry commissioned and donated the Lyman Kipp metal sculpture in 1981, titled “Salute to Knowledge.” The towering blue columns and red panels stand out in contrast to the brick façade of the library and traditional architecture of the Hill shopping district.
Kipp was a founding member of ConStruct, the artist-owned gallery that promoted and organized large-scale sculpture exhibitions throughout the United States. Other founding members include Mark di Suvero, Kenneth Snelson, John Raymond Henry and Charles Ginneve.
Boy and Bear
Marshall Fredericks (1908-1998)
Fredericks was born in Rock Island, Illinois in 1908. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated from the Cleveland School of Art in 1930 and journeyed abroad on a fellowship to study with Carl Milles in Sweden. He also studied in Denmark, Germany, France and Italy and traveled extensively in Europe and North Africa.
In 1936 Fredericks won a competition to create the Levi L. Barbour Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle in Detroit. This was the first of many public monuments created by Fredericks. He lived in Birmingham, Michigan and maintained a studio in Royal Oak, Michigan until his death.
History of Writing
Herbert Matter (1907 – 1984)
Herbert Matter was a Swiss-born American photographer and graphic designer. He was known for his pioneering use of photomontage in commercial art and his innovative and experimental work helped shape the vocabulary of 20th century graphic design.
Matter studied painting in Geneva and Paris. In 1932 he designed posters for the Swiss National Tourist Office and Swiss resorts. The posters won instant international acclaim for his pioneering use of photomontage combined with typeface. In the U.S. he worked for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.
He was commissioned to create a mural for the opening of the Central Library. Finished in 1955, the work titled “History of Writing” was installed. Standing at 25 feet across and 9 feet high, it features photo examples of various stages of human communication through writing from around the world that cover several thousand years of history.
Glen Michaels (1927 - )
Available at the Central Library
Tools are loaned free with your library card. We are constantly adding new tools. If you don’t find what you're looking for on this list, please contact us at 313.343.2074 ext. 220.