Foundation Donates Alexander Calder Mobile to Duke Medicine
DURHAM, N.C. -- The Robert and Nettie Benenson Foundation has donated a mobile created by renowned sculptor Alexander Calder to Duke Medicine. The mobile is now on display in the Duke Medicine Pavilion concourse.
Lisa Benenson Quattrocchi, vice president and secretary of the foundation, presented the gift on its behalf. The Benenson Foundation was created by her grandparents and guided for many years by her late father, Edward H. Benenson, a 1934 graduate of Duke and longtime benefactor of the university and Duke University Hospital.
The Pavilion is intended to be a temporary home. Quattrocchi has requested that the mobile eventually be displayed permanently in Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center. Fundraising to expand inpatient facilities for children is now underway.
The artwork, created in 1968, is made of painted sheet metal and wire, and measures 31 by 85 by 50 inches. Calder (1898-1976) was among the most celebrated American artists of the 20th century, best known as the inventor and master of the mobile, a form of sculpture that incorporates movement into art by slowly swaying, spinning or swinging with the currents of the air.
Kevin Sowers, MSN, RN, president of Duke University Hospital, said the mobile was an extraordinary gift and tribute to Edward Benenson, and will be a benefit to all who see it in the medical center.
“Art plays an important role in creating a healing environment for our patients, their loved ones and our staff,” Sowers said.
The mobile was among the works in Edward Benenson’s substantial collection of modern art. At one time, it hung from the ceiling in the family’s Long Island beach house, Quattrocchi said; when she was a little girl, she used to jump up and see how close she could come to touching its bright red panels.
“We are thrilled that Duke has received such a significant Calder mobile, which will surely lift the spirits of patients and visitors to Duke Hospital,” said Sarah Schroth, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. “We know and love Calder as the famous inventor of the mobile. Duke is fortunate to share this beautiful sculpture with the public.”
Benenson bequeathed the mobile to the Robert and Nettie Benenson Foundation upon his death in 2005. Quattrocchi said the foundation wanted to display the piece for the benefit of the public and had been searching for the most suitable space.
“Then one night I literally woke up and said, ‘Aha!’” said Quattrocchi, who is on the Duke Children’s National Board of Advisors. “I thought, ‘Let’s donate it to Duke Children’s Hospital.’ And the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. It’s a colorful, happy, joyful piece, and I like to think that seeing it will brighten the day for a lot of children and families.”
Quattrocchi said her father would have been thrilled to know the piece had found a permanent home at Duke.
“He had a deep love for Duke, and I think he would be honored to have it there,” Quattrocchi said. “And I know he would be happy that it has found such a good home, where it will bring joy to so many people.”
Edward Benenson, who graduated with a degree in art history in 1934, was chair and owner of Benenson Funding Corporation, a real estate business.
A U.S. Army veteran who was decorated for his service in Europe during World War II, he was deeply involved in multiple areas at Duke throughout his life. Benenson chaired the Duke Medical Center Board of Visitors, played a major role in planning and securing funding for Duke Hospital North, and gave $1 million toward the building of the McGovern-Davison Children’s Health Center.
He also was a strong advocate of the arts, at the university and elsewhere. A lifetime member and onetime chair of the Friends of the Duke University Museum of Art, he established a lecture series in the arts as well as the Benenson Awards in the Arts at Duke to support student projects.
Benenson was elected to the Duke University Board of Trustees in 1979, and in 2002 was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award, the university’s highest honor presented to alumni.
Lisa Quattrocchi is a real estate attorney and vice president of Benenson Funding Corporation, which owns and manages properties in New York, Connecticut and North Carolina. She is vice president and secretary of both the Edward H. Benenson Foundation and the Robert and Nettie Benenson Foundation. Her mother, Gladys Benenson, is president of both foundations.
Quattrocchi has supported Duke and Duke Children’s through her service on the board of advisors and through foundation donations to efforts that include the Teddy Bear Ball and the MIX 101.5 Radiothon.
Quattrocchi’s daughter Nina, who earned a bachelor’s degree in public policy in 2013, is the latest in a long line of family members who have graduated from Duke.