Create your first list.

A way to share and manage lots.

  • Provenance

    Galerie Maeght, Paris
    Private Collection, Paris
    Kukje Gallery, Seoul
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Galerie Maeght, Paris, Aix, Saché, Roxbury 1953-54, November – December, 1954

  • Literature

    Aix, Saché, Roxbury 1953-54, exh. cat., Galerie Maeght, Paris, 1954, no. 15

  • Catalogue Essay

    A saintly poetry exists within Calder’s magnificent mobiles, a divine dance both captured and shaped. The viewer is made to think of nothing else but the elegant activity that lays before. Calder’s structures move through their own kinesis, a continuous melting pot of engineering brilliance, sensational rhythm and metaphysical eccentricity, not seen since Calder ceased to create. “Why must sculpture be static? You look at abstraction, sculptured or painted, an entirely exciting arrangement of planes, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect but always still. The next step is sculpture in motion.” (A. Calder in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, Washington 1998, p. 57).

    Even though he explored a wide array of forms—colossal and slight, ground-mounted, adjourned and even a series of paintings—Calder’s first love as an artist was always the mutability of his subjects. Although during the post-war period, Calder concentrated on large-scale monuments for municipal plazas and corporate office centers, he continued to be absorbed by the possibilities that smaller-scale, more intimate works offered him. In the present lot, the viewer catches the artist at a pivotal point; the previous year he had represented the United States at the Venice Biennale where he secured the grand prize for sculpture.

    Polygones noirs, executed 1953, is a fragile piece, yet one at perfect ease. The gentle metal forms appear like an angel in preparation for flight, its feathered sheet metal pointing upwards towards the sky. Calder sets the work in place and then lets go. "Each element can move, shift or sway back and forth in a changing relation to each other and independently of other elements in the universe. Thus they reveal not only isolated moments, but a physical law of variation among the events of life. Not extractions, but abstractions: Abstractions which resemble no living thing, except in their manner of reacting." (A Calder, "Comment réaliser l'art?," Abstraction, Création, Art Non-Figuratif, no. 1, 1932, p. 6)

    In a contrapposto of rivaled weights, two groups of all black constellated shapes crane in opposition to one another, each allied in equal strength against its counterpart. Calder clutches these black silhouettes onto a series of adjacent abutments, which then link together through petite hangers. An open triangular base lies at the core of Polygones noirs, appearing to support itself effortlessly while the shaped elements hang in a dramatic fashion of tripled tension. Although the work could easily change orientation due to slight shifts in perspective, unassuming breezes in the wind or a slender touch as its trigger, the bold, all black graphic clarity of its dangling shapes provide a gentle compass to the piece’s dynamism. Titillated by the creative potentials of the polygon, Calder aspired to explore the possibilities of transfiguring this two-dimensional formula into a three-dimensional being.

    Polygones noirs not only shows Calder's respect for a multi-dimensional aesthetic, it also shows his interest in adverse perspective, a duality of concern that provides for rich interaction. Traditional, more formal concerns of observing a sculpture in its round are quickly met with more contemporary, unconventional views. The mobile's form appears strikingly different from various positions; from one angle it appears gracefully vertiginous, while from another, shapes appear to float beside one another on one horizontal plane.

    "It is a flower that fades when it ceases to move, a 'pure play of movement' in the sense that we speak of a pure play of light... [M]ost of Calder's constructions are not imitative of nature; I know no less deceptive art than his. Sculpture suggests movement, painting suggests depth or light. A 'mobile' does not 'suggest' anything: it captures genuine living movements and shapes them. 'Mobiles' have no meaning, make you think of nothing but themselves. They are, that is all; they are absolutes. There is more of the unpredictable about them than in any other human creation. No human brain, not even their creator's, could possibly foresee all the complex combinations of which they are capable. A general destiny of movement is sketched for them, and then they are left to work it out for themselves. What they may do at a given moment will be determined by the time of day, the sun, the temperature or the wind. The object is thus always half way between the servility of a statue and the independence of natural events; each of its evolutions is the inspiration of a moment." (J.P. Sartre, "The Mobiles of Calder," Alexander Calder, exh.cat., Buchholz Gallery, New York, 1947)

    The potential for movement in Polygones noirs, executed 1953, grants it with a potential for performance, a surprising and angelic dance of absolute splendor. The viewer is reminded that profundity is not always entangled in utter intricacy; meaning can occur in the most modest of sculptures inculcated with the simplest of vitality. “I feel an artist should go about his work simply with great respect for his materials…sculptors of all places and climates have used what came ready at hand. They did not search for exotic and precious materials. It was their knowledge and invention which gave value to the result of their labors…simplicity of equipment and an adventurous spirit in attacking the unfamiliar or unknown,” (Alexander Calder, 1943, “Alexander Calder”, Calder Foundation, New York, 1943 taken from Simplicity of Means: Calder and the Devised Object, New York, 2007)

  • 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.

    View More Works


Polygones noirs

stabile, standing mobile: painted sheet metal, rod, wire
37 1/2 x 39 x 15 in. (95.3 x 99.1 x 38.1 cm.)

$1,400,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $1,565,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Evening Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 11 November 2013 7PM