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  • A stunning example of Alexander Calder's innovations in form and motion, Untitled from 1972 is a hallmark of the artist's celebrated late mobiles. Created only a few years before the artist’s unexpected death in 1976, Untitled showcases Calder at the top of his career and at the summit of the international art world; by this point in time, his work had already achieved widespread intercontinental acclaim, cementing Calder’s status as one of the most beloved artists of the 20th century. A breathtaking yet intimate example of Calder’s desirable hanging mobiles, Untitled represents the artist’s lifelong innovation in all of its spectacular simplicity.

     

    Inventing Motion

     

    Untitled is a seminal work in Calder's most desirable and iconic form: the mobile, an artform that brings Calder’s lifelong ambition to incorporate motion into his artwork to its apex. Calder had been interested in breathing life into his artworks as early as the 1930s, when he first created a series of animated circus figures as part of the famous Cirque Calder performances he gave to friends and patrons in Paris and New York. Many of these works, however, were powered using small motors and Calder lamented the artificiality of their movement. He strove to create a smooth and organic form of kinetic sculpture, achieving this feat at the onset of the 1930s with works that Marcel Duchamp coined "mobiles" during a visit to Calder’s studio. By 1932, Calder had created his first suspended mobile that was free from all mechanization, propelled instead by atmospheric elements. 

     

    Calder continued to innovate and improve on the suspended mobile for the entirety of his career, creating a beloved series of works distinguished by their eternal balance and ever-changing dance. A sublimely elegant combination of sleek design and technical craftsmanship, the present work is an excellent example of a master creating at the height of his artistic practice. As none other than Jean-Paul Sartre espoused, "Valéry said the sea is always beginning over again. One of Calder’s objects is like the sea and equally spellbinding: always beginning over again, always new. A passing glance is not enough; you must live with it, be bewitched by it. Then the imagination revels in these pure, interchanging forms, at once free and rule-governed.”i 

    "A passing glance is not enough; you must live with it, be bewitched by it. Then the imagination revels in these pure, interchanging forms, at once free and rule-governed." —Jean-Paul SartreAn exceptionally elegant paragon of simplicity, Untitled is bewitching as its graceful geometry hovers in harmonious circular arcs above the viewer. Although they are undeniably striking works of art in their own right, Calder’s mobiles are incomplete without the influence of their environments. Jean-Paul Sartre, writing about Calder’s mobiles in the 1940s, indeed described the mobile as "defined by its movement and non-existent without it; a flower that withers as soon as it comes to a standstill."ii As a soft touch or a gentle breeze sets Untitled into motion, the work smoothly dances in the air, reminiscent of the undulating and everlasting motions of the natural world.


    i Jean-Paul Sartre, "Les Mobiles des Calder," 1946, quoted in Calder/Prouvé, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, Le Bourget, 2013, p. 112-113
    ii Jean-Paul Sartre, "Les Mobiles des Calder",1946, quoted in Calder/Prouvé, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, Le Bourget, 2013, p. 112

    • Provenance

      B.C. Holland, Inc., Chicago
      Private Collection, Chicago (acquired from the above in 1972)
      Thence by descent to the present owner

    • 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 a Distinguished Midwestern Collection

135

Untitled

sheet metal, wire and string
17 x 30 x 4 3/4 in. (43.2 x 76.2 x 12.1 cm)
Executed circa 1972, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A29160.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $365,400

Contact Specialist

John McCord
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20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York 8 December 2020