Alexander Calder - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 24, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Joseph Lazzini, Marseille (gifted directly by the artist)
    Digard, Paris, 26 November 2007, Lot 67
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Munich, Galerie Thomas, Alexander Calder - Joan Miró, May – July 2010, pp. 8-9 (illustrated)
    Paris, Galerie Patrick Seguin, Calder|Prouvé, 24 October - 7 December 2013, pp. 140-141, 142-143, 182 (illustrated)
    Paris, Gagosian, Group Show, 23 January - 19 February 2014
    Salzburg, Galerie Thomas Salis, Alexander Calder: Colour & Motion, 28 July - 31 August, 2018

  • Catalogue Essay

    Untitled (Maquette for Eppur Si Muove) was made by Alexander Calder in 1968, and perfectly encapsulates his ingenuity in form and colour. This work, with its personal dedication from the artist to the dancer and choreographer Jo Lazzini, with whom he collaborated on a number of projects at the time, is a testament to Calder’s ability to create sculptures that appear deceptively simple, yet which function on a number of levels. In the case of Untitled, this is evident just in walking around the work. Unlike a painting, this is emphatically three-dimensional. Indeed, considering it comprises planes decorated with only four colours, it is necessary for the viewer to circumnavigate Untitled in order to appreciate the different combinations incorporated into its composition.

    By the time Calder made Untitled, he was one of the most recognised artists working in the world, having enjoyed a number of international exhibitions and with his sculptures already incorporated in prominent museum collections. He spent a large amount of time in France, where he had a studio, as well as his native United States of America. While rising to prominence during the age of Surrealism before the Second World War, he had managed to finesse a visual language that saw him appealing to generations of subsequent artists, not least the Abstract Expressionists who dominated the American art scene in the 1940s and 1950s. The rigour of Untitled and its emphasis on colour, as well as its vertical thrust, mean that it echoes the works of Clyfford Still and Barnett Newman. Yet Untitled also reveals Calder’s affinity with to one of his great painter friends, Piet Mondrian, in its use of pure blocks of black, white and prime colours. 'My entrance into the field of abstract art came about as a result of a visit to the studio of Piet Mondrian in Paris in 1930,’ Calder would recall. 'I was particularly impressed by some rectangles of colour he had tacked on his wall in a pattern after his nature' (Calder, quoted in C. Giménez & A.S.C. Rower (ed.), Calder: Gravity and Grace, London, 2004, p. 52.) Notably, it was the studio's environment-as-installation, not the Dutch artist's paintings, that impressed Calder.

    Contrasting with his Mobiles, the moving sculptures often hung from the ceiling and named by Duchamp, Calder’s Stabiles—whose name was suggested by Hans Arp—are rooted to a surface. They are still. Yet this does not prevent their containing visual excitement and stimulation: Untitled reveals the extent to which Calder was able to fill his works with motion, even when they had no moving parts. In the case of Untitled, it is the viewer’s movements that unlock its incredible dynamism. While the sculpture comprises only two intersecting planar forms, Calder’s use of colour dictates that only two colours are visible at any one time—yet in a range of combinations. The work can appear white and yellow from one side, red and black from another, black and white or yellow and red. These are all strong, lively colours, adding to the visual drama that Calder manages to concentrate into the work with such seeming ease. Meanwhile, there is a visual contrast between the forms themselves: one is essentially a triangle, while the other is a tapering mass of simple lines and curves. The juxtaposition of these elements is underscored by the colours themselves. Standing about a foot tall, Untitled manages to compress visual fireworks on a domestic, even intimate scale.

    Untitled features a dedication to the dancer and choreographer Joseph Lazzini, who was born in Nice and became the director of the Ballet National de Marseille between 1959-1968. It was while he was in that role that Lazzini collaborated with Calder, enlisting him to create the sets for a ballet, Eppur si muove, in 1965. This ballet, choreographed by Lazzini himself, took its name from a famous phrase attributed to Galileo Galilei: ‘And yet it moves.’ This was clearly an apt theme for Calder, the inventor of the Mobile. In 1969, Calder would collaborate with Lazzini again, this time designing the sets and costumes for Métaboles, which featured a score by Henri Dutilleux. Calder even designed a poster on the occasion. The dedication to Lazzini on Untitled is a tribute to their relationship.

    For both Eppur si muove and Métaboles, Calder created sets that featured Mobiles hanging above the dancers. It was in 1968, however, the very year that Untitled was made, that Calder was able to oversee his own ballet project. For Work in Progress, Calder created a production that featured his own works moving, accompanied by music. Having begun preparing it the previous year, Work in Progress would enjoy its debut in the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome in March. In lieu of dancers, it featured sculptures by Calder, as well as roving bicyclists and other smatterings of human presence. In some cases, these were the people pulling giant Mobiles into place on the stage. Calder appears to have revelled in the opportunity to present his vision on this vast scale. Calder deftly made use of colour and light in order to harness a sense of visual drama. Looking at Untitled, the viewer can appreciate how he was able to do this even on a more human scale, and without recourse to actual movement.

  • Artist Biography

    Alexander Calder

    American • 1898 - 1976

    Alexander Calder worked as an abstract sculptor and has been commonly referred to as the creator of the mobile. He employed industrious materials of wire and metal and transformed them into delicate geometric shapes that respond to the wind or float in air. Born into a family of sculptors, Calder created art from childhood and moved to Paris in 1926, where he became a pioneer of the international avant-garde. In addition to his mobiles, Calder produced an array of public constructions worldwide as well as drawings and paintings that feature the same brand of abstraction. Calder was born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania.

    View More Works


Untitled (Maquette for Eppur Si Muove)

signed, dedicated and dated 'pour Jo Lazzini CA 68' on the white element
painted sheet metal
31 x 22.2 x 22.2 cm. (12 1/4 x 8 3/4 x 8 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1965 and inscribed in 1968, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A15830.

HK$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for HK$1,750,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department
+852 2318 2011

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018