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    "How can art be realized?...Out of volumes, motion, spaces bounded by the great space, the universe."
    —Alexander Calder

     

    Alexander and Louisa Calder in India, 1955. Image: Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York, © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Alexander and Louisa Calder in India, 1955. Image: Photo courtesy of Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York, Artwork: © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

    Encapsulating an extraordinary story of Alexander Calder’s global travels, White Moon is a striking example of the artist’s lifelong endeavors in kinetic abstractions and captivation with nature. Conceived during a pivotal moment in Calder’s career, the present work belongs to a rare body of nine sculptures the artist created during his trip to India between January and February 1955. Upon an invitation from the renowned architect and designer Gira Sarabhai, Calder sojourned for three weeks at her family’s estate in Ahmedabad, where he produced one of the most fascinating bodies of work of his oeuvre that remained in the Sarabhai family’s private collection for nearly half a century. In this dynamic composition, a white crescent flutters amidst a constellation of blue, black and red elements as the mobile dances in infinite combinations before the viewer’s eyes.

     

    "In 1954, I received a letter from a young Indian woman who wrote me mentioning Jean Hélion, my good friend. She was Gira Sarabhai, youngest of eight children of a large wealthy family in Ahmedabad, which is somewhere halfway between Bombay and Delhi. She offered Louisa and me a trip to India, if I’d consent to make some objects for her when there. I immediately replied yes."
    —Alexander Calder

     

    Coming from a family of important Jain industrialists and steadfast patrons of the arts, Gira and her brother Gautam had frequently welcomed leaders of the European and American avant-garde to their home, including Isamu Noguchi, John Cage, Le Corbusier, and later Robert Rauschenberg, Charles and Ray Eames, and Richard Neutra—among others. Soon after purchasing her first Calder mobile at the Maeght Gallery in Paris, Gira extended an invitation to Calder, which would commence their lifelong friendship. For Calder, the inspiration of the new environment of Ahmbedabad, as well as the economic means of materials and time, reinvigorated him with a fresh burst of artistic imagination channeled through spontaneous creativity. This impulse was reflected in his rare instance of titling of the sculptures including the present work just before they were unveiled at a private exhibition at the Bhulabhai Memorial Institute, Mumbai in March 1955, alongside the screening of Herbert Matter’s 1950 film, Works of Calder.

     

     

     

     

     A Mobile Artist

     

    "In one hand a pair of pliers…toujours en vedette.
    His tools are always by his side, ready like a mechanic poised to begin work. And his workplace represents the whole world…"
    —Paul Westheim

     

    In his response to Gira’s request, Calder noted “I will bring my pliers—but no other tool.”i This statement encapsulates the artist’s habit of distilling his practice down to the wire, so to speak, through his habit of working in makeshift studios. Combining work and travel, Calder’s nomadic approach is seen as early as 1920s during his time in Paris, namely his improvised performances of Cirque Calder and his spontaneous wire portraits. By the 1950s, Calder applied this sensibility to his brief residencies abroad—from Beirut in 1954 and Ahmedabad in 1955, to Caracas shortly after—becoming ever more in tune with his art. In the words of Oliver Wick, “Ingenious flexibility with improvised working situations and adaptive artistic methods made Calder become ‘mobile’ himself.”ii

     

     

    Calder’s Universe

     

    "[Calder’s] mobiles are at once lyrical inventions, technical, almost mathematical combinations and the tangible symbol of Nature."
    —Jean-Paul Sartre

     

     

    Joan Miró, Personnages dans la nuit guidés par les traces phosphorescentes des escargots from the series Constellations, 1941-1959. Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Image: © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    Joan Miró, Personnages dans la nuit guidés par les traces phosphorescentes des escargots from the series Constellations, 1941-1959. Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Image: © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

     

     

    In the early 1930s, Marcel Duchamp iconically coined the term 'mobile' when he saw Calder’s first motorized sculptures at the artist’s studio in Paris. At the time, Calder was closely affiliated with the Parisian avant-garde milieu, bearing witness to some of the most radical creative developments in European Modernism, and invented his singular artistic language that revolutionized three-dimensional art in the 20th century. Drawing from his intuitive understanding of mathematics and the laws of physics, Calder refined his process by discarding mechanization and allowing nature to be the source of motion, resulting in the poetic simplicity of Calder’s kinetic abstractions that belie the complexity of their conception. In India, Calder created his sculptures with a lighter type of metal, which allowed the sculptures to move all the more lyrically as manifested in White Moon.

     

    “To me,” Calder wrote, “whatever sphere, or other form, I use in these constructions does not necessarily mean a body of that size, shape or color, but may mean a more minute system of bodies, an atmospheric condition, or even a void. I.E. the idea that one can compose any things of which he can conceive.”v  In subject, form, and movement, White Moon perfectly captures the heart of Calder’s visionary practice.

     

     

     

    The present work installed at the Villa Sarabhai in Ahmedabad, 1955. Artwork: © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    The present work installed at the Villa Sarabhai in Ahmedabad, 1955. Artwork: © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

     

     

    Collector’s Digest

     

    Concurrent & Upcoming Institutional Shows:

     

    Museum of Modern Art, New York, Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start, March 14 – January 15, 2022

     

    The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Calder-Picasso, October 31, 2021 – January 30, 2022

     

    Kunsthal, Rotterdam, Calder Now, November 21, 2021 – May 29, 2022

     

     

    i Alexander Calder to Gira Sarabhai, letter dated September 9, 195, repr. in Calder in India, exh. cat., London, 2012, p. 100.
    ii Oliver Wick, “Alexander Calder: A Passage to India,” in Calder in India, London, 2012, p. 27.
    iii Alexander Calder, quoted in Jean Lipman, Calder’s Universe, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1977, p. 17.
    iv  Alexander Calder in conversation with Jean Davidson, in Alexander Calder, Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures, New York, 1966, pp. 54-55.

    v Alexander Calder, "À Propos of Measuring a Mobile," manuscript, October 7, 1943, online

    • Provenance

      Gira Sarabhai, Ahmedabad (gifted by the artist in 1955)
      Private Collection (acquired from the above)
      Christie’s, New York, May 10, 2016, lot 14B
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Ordovas Gallery, Calder in India, May 31 - August 3, 2012, p. 80 (illustrated, pp. 81, 93; installation view illustrated, p. 87)

    • Literature

      Shanay Jhaveri, ed., Western Artists and India: Creative Inspirations in Art and Design, London, 2013, no. 1, p. 42 (illustrated)

    • 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

Property of a Distinguished American Collector

10

White Moon

sheet metal, wire, and paint
24 1/2 x 112 x 19 1/2 in. (62.2 x 284.5 x 49.5 cm)
Executed in India in 1955.

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A10124.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for $4,628,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021