Alexander Calder - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Sunday, November 8, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Alexander Calder 'Untitled', circa 1941

    Alexander Calder's 'Untitled', circa 1941 to be offered in our 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 8 November 2015 in New York.

  • Provenance

    Dorothy Dudley and Harry Blodgett Harvey, New York
    Jane and Jason Harvey, New York
    Gallery Schlesinger, New York
    Marc Blondeau, Paris
    Private Collection, Paris
    Christie's, New York, Post-War Evening Sale, November 15, 2000, lot 5
    Guggenheim Asher Associates, New York
    Private Collection, United States

  • Exhibited

    Menlo Park, Pace Gallery, Alexander Calder: The Art of Invention, April 16 - May 10, 2014

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Just as one can compose colors, or forms, so one can compose motions." Alexander Calder

    As both a painter and a sculptor rooted in the Abstraction-Création movement alongside Jean Arp and Piet Mondrian, Alexander Calder truly pioneered the notion of kinetic art that has transcended across decades. As the artist recounts in 1920s Paris, responding to Mondrian’s geometric forms on canvas, “I suggested…that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate and he, with a very serious countenance, said: ‘No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast…’ This one visit gave me a shock that started things.” (A. Calder and J. Davidson, Calder, an Autobiography with Pictures, 1966, New York, p. 113) The shock resulted in the creation of the “Mobile,” a term coined by the father of Dada, Marcel Duchamp, turning Calder’s early sculptures into even more dynamic forms, central to the artist’s influence, one that extends well beyond early-20th century Paris.

    The present lot Untitled embraces the essential characteristics of Calder’s mobiles with biomorphic forms and kinetic presence in a sculpture that is both colorful and dynamic. This standing mobile is firmly rooted to the ground on a three-legged base, a common feature of Calder’s works from the early 1940’s, which then extends upwards into two delicate sides of graceful, elemental movement. Brought to life by a passing breeze, colorful, irregular discs float on arching branches that occupy different planes. In the backmost plane, a fiery red element beautifully oscillates, reminiscent of a mountain range. Floating opposite these parts are white, red, yellow and blue forms, resulting in a symphony of movement in primary colors. Each of these kinetic parts is anchored by a meticulously fashioned red conical form at the center of the sculpture, which serves as a foundation for the dual sided mobile top.

    As with all of Calder’s mobiles, however, there are not two moments in time that are the same in the sculpture’s constantly shifting dynamic. In Untitled, mass, movement and form are in a constant state of flux by the energy which surrounds the work. It is the artist’s ability to make us look not just at the parts, but how they interact with the whole that is the genius of these works. Shifting our position can give a completely new variation on the same sculpture, and the longer we look at the work, the more it continues to change our impression of the piece itself. Whether in 1940 or today, this interplay of movement and form is timeless. As art historian Jed Perl notes, “…wheras Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Kandinsky, Klee and Mondrian reacted to nature and abstraction in terms of planar geometries, and Constantin Brancusi and Jean Arp considered geometry in three dimensions, Calder alone found a way to project this fascination with the movement of forms through time and space back into the real world as an artistic actuality. This is the miracle of the mobile.” (Ed. S. Barron and L. Gabrielle Mark, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Guard to Iconic, essay by Jed Perl, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013, p. 49)

  • 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.

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Ο ◆15


circa 1941
sheet metal, rod, wire, paint
45 x 68 x 38 in. (114.3 x 172.7 x 96.5 cm)
This work was inscribed "CA" at a later date on the largest red element. This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A09590.

$3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

Sold for $3,973,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 November 2015 7pm