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  • Provenance

    Galerie Maeght, Paris
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1976)
    M. Knoedler & Co. Inc., New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1979

  • Exhibited

    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Calder’s Universe, 5 June - 14 August 1977

  • Catalogue Essay

    In Higgledy Piggledy, the magic and lyricism of Alexander Calder’s celebrated ‘Mobiles’ are presented on an intimate scale. The sculpture stands only a little more than forty centimetres tall, its arms stretching out a similar distance in each direction as they rotate. The bulk of the sculpture is painted in a vivid red, with the paddles at each end of the wires in white, bringing a dynamic contrast to the ever-shifting composition. This is all the more effective in a sculpture such as Higgledy Piggledy: it is one of Calder’s ‘Standing Mobiles’, and is intended to be placed on a surface. While some of his ‘Standing Mobiles’ were intended to be put directly on the floor, in works such as Higgledy Piggledy, a table or desk is the more natural setting—and this allows the white and red elements to form a counterpoint to the world around it. This is in contrast to the hanging ‘Mobiles’, which are so often seen against the stark white of the ceiling or walls.

    By the time he made Higgledy Piggledy in 1969, Calder was an international star. He had worked in many media, in many countries. He had managed to bridge the world of the Surrealists amongst whom he had lived in Paris in the years before the Second World War and that of the Abstract Expressionists who came to the fore in the later 1940s in his native United States. The movement and gesture that was so integral to Calder’s work served as a prelude to Abstract Expressionism, while his intuitive process resonated with Surrealist automatism. Both are in strong evidence in Higgledy Piggledy.

    Calder’s success saw him working on an ever-increasing scale, eventually providing designs for concert halls and airplanes. While he relished these challenges, in works such as Higgledy Piggledy he was able to maintain a direct connection to the material which he manipulated in order to create the work. This introduced an intimacy that is all the more powerful in the relatively gem-like proportions of Higgledy Piggledy. It is a monument in miniature, yet also an ephemeral and ethereal sliver of movement and enchantment, and this effect is heightened by the artist’s own interventions.

    Calder, after all, was an inveterate innovator and creator. The urge to make bubbled through almost constantly. He was able to transform the materials that he found around him, often discarded, placing them in new contexts that saw them elevated to the status of artworks. “Calder's characteristic material is metal,” wrote his friend, the veteran museum director James Johnson Sweeney. “He has always avoided modelling in favour of direct handling - cutting, shaping with a hammer, or assembling piece by piece. Such an approach has fostered a simplicity of form and clarity of contour in his work. It allies him with Brancusi, Arp, Moore and Giacometti in their repudiation of virtuosity” (James Johnson Sweeney, Alexander Calder, exh. cat., New York, 1951, reproduced in C. Giménez & A.S.C. Rower (ed.), Calder: Gravity and Grace, London, 2004, p. 72).

    In addition to this involvement with his materials, Calder breathed extra life in them through the incorporation of movement. The inception of Calder’s abstract work had come about when he had visited the studio of his friend, the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, in 1930. Mondrian’s studio was largely painted white, with rectangles in cardboard tacked to the wall for compositional experimentation. Calder mentioned that he thought they would be improved if they oscillated. Mondrian objected, but the notion gave rise to the ‘Mobiles.’ In a sense, the deliberately-restricted palette of Higgledy Piggledy echoes that of Mondrian, who focused so heavily on black, white, grey and the prime colors in so many of his own most revered works. Calder himself played down the role of colour in his sculpture, telling Katharine Kuh that he essentially used it to differentiate forms. “Black and white are first - then red is next - and then I get sort of vague… I love red so much that I almost want to paint everything red. I often wish that I'd been a fauve in 1905' (Calder, quoted in K. Kuh, The Artist's Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists, New York, 2000, p. 41).

  • Artist Biography

    Alexander Calder

    American • 1898 - 1976

    One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Alexander Calder defied gravity and breathed life into sculpture with his innovative and enrapturing approach. Producing art over a fifty-year span, Calder created a body of work that is impressive both for its breadth and diversity as well as for its universal mastery of form and space. Calder is perhaps best known for his enchanting series of mobiles, kinetic sculptures that float gracefully in space, but he also created a series of monumental yet airy stabiles, massive abstract forms that are bound to the earth, and was a prolific draftsman, painter, printmaker, and creator of jewelry, ornament, and ephemera. Calder’s work on an intimate scale is as impressive as his monumental sculpture.

    Calder’s work is well represented in the world’s most prestigious arts institutions and he is universally regarded as one of the touchstones of the 20th century avant-garde; his work is routinely exhibited in single retrospectives across the globe, and Calder himself will receive his own institution in his native Philadelphia, which will be designed as a “sanctuary” by leading architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron.

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Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection


Higgledy Piggledy

incised with the artist's monogram and dated 'CA 69' on the base
sheet metal, wire and paint
43.2 x 76.2 x 76.2 cm. (17 x 30 x 30 in.)
Executed in 1969, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A10722.

HK$4,800,000 - 6,800,000 

Sold for HK$5,190,000

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019