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  • Provenance

    Estate of the artist until c. 1977
    Andre Emmerich Collection
    Christie's New York, 'Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning Session', 17 May 2007, lot 180
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Ameringer Yohe Fine Art, Calder: Four Maquettes, Two Stabiles & A Little Bird Too, 19 September - 12 October 2002

  • Literature


    Calder: Four Maquettes, Two Stabiles & A Little Bird Too
    , Exh. Cat., Ameringer Yohe Fine Art, New York, 2002, pp. 19-21 (illustrated in colour)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “When I have used spheres and discs, I have intended that they should represent more than what they just are.” ALEXANDER CALDER

    The Lion (maquette) executed in 1976 by Alexander Calder excellently attests to the artist’s reputation as the world’s utmost abstract sculptor that has given him unique prestige in Twentieth Century Art. Rather than focusing on two-dimensional renderings of his subjects, Calder chooses to inundate himself with the nature of structure, integrating colour and movement to such an extent that his sculptures challenge the conventional label of three-dimensional art. The present lot moves gracefully in an everlasting balance of predestined elegance and poise, reaffirming the artist’s renowned technique. Calder’s maquettes are a stroke of genius, continuing to fascinate the audience with their incredulous achievements of engineering, culminating in an abstract beauty and dynamism.The Lion (maquette) is a product of Calder’s of the final year of his career before his death a year later in 1976, exhibiting not only his enchantment with majestic conceptions, but also the performative
    allure and charming stasis that grant his maquettes a coveted place in art history.

    While Calder can be considered one of the most prominent artists of his time, his artwork is contemporaneous with barely accessible artists, including the Surrealists and the titans of unadulterated abstraction, such as Robert Delaunay, Theo van Doesburg, and Kurt Schwitters, all of which made up the Abstract-Création group. Calder has been recognized as one of the prominent forerunners of modernist sculpture; however, his involvement in the development of abstract modern sculpture is incredibly palpable. The artist was considered a member of the European avant-garde, brushing shoulders with André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, and Piet Mondrian. His radical inventions oscillate easily between seeming opposites, adding to the constant, anarchic subversion of the sculptural paradigm.

    In 1960, the artist declared the importance of his monumental stabiles: “There has been an aggrandisement in my work. It’s true that I’ve more or less retired from the mobiles. I regard them as just fiddling. The engineering on the big objects is important” (A. Calder, quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 1998, p. 279). Using smaller sculptures as guides, such as the present lot, he was able to fluently complete his elevated, steel monuments; thus, while at a height of 17.5 inches, the maquette will forever insinuate its conversion to an immense scale. Calder develops the structure’s formal dualism by manifesting delicate forms with hard, industrial sheet metal. Though Calder predominantly rendered his maquettes in aluminium, here he chooses to use steel to create a durable, long-term structure: “Calder’s characteristic material is metal…He has always avoided modeling in favor of direct handling - cutting, shaping with a hammer, or assembling piece by piece. Such an approach has fostered a simplicity of form and clarity of contour in his work. It allies him with Brancusi, Arp, Moore and Giacometti in their repudiation of virtuosity” (J.J. Sweeney, Alexander Calder, exh. cat., New York 1951, reproduced in C. Giménez & A.S.C. Rower (eds.), Calder: Gravity and Grace, London, 2004, p. 72).

    The significance of Calder’s art was not only in its nature of movement, but also in its complete absence of pretension. Crafting the present lot from simple sheet metal, Calder chooses to emphasize the medium rather than the content as the main subject of his work. Calder’s choice of material, fused with his valiant steps into uncharted regions of sculpture, exhibited him to be the most progressive sculptor and artist of the 20th Century, who’s work had worldwide appeal without any arcane or elitist elements. As one can see in The Lion (maquette), Calder remained loyal to the spirit of artistic progression until the year before he died. Witnessing the gracious, humorous, and often sophisticated and surprising movement of the modern and minimalist lines of the present lot, we recollect that perceptiveness is not always entangled in absolute complexity; for reality or representation can exist in the most humble of sculptures infused with the most simple vivacity. Calder’s maquettes, configurations that precede the artist’s conversion to monumental scale, possess the same emphatic character as is large-scale reiterations; however, its intimate size emphasizes its personal significance to the artist.

  • 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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24

The Lion (maquette)

1976
sheet metal, stabile
66 x 44.5 x 63.5 cm. (25 7/8 x 17 1/2 x 25 in.)

Estimate
£180,000 - 220,000 

Sold for £206,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 16 October 2013