Roy Lichtenstein - 20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | Phillips
  • Executed in 1990-1991, Roy Lichtenstein’s Suspended Mobile exemplifies the keen sense of experimentation, innovation and increasing technical complexity with which the revered Pop artist continued to push his practice in the last decade of his life. A masterful and multilayered ode to Alexander Calder’s kinetic mobiles, this work presents a monumental hanging mobile within the unique form of a bas-relief. Seemingly suspended in air, the mobile is rendered from black pigmented silicon and silkscreened layers of ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, and cadmium red magna, atop a semi-transparent polyester fabric that is pulled taut across the concave rectangular frame. The result of a complex process of creation, Suspended Mobile boldly challenges the boundaries between painting, printmaking and sculpture. It as such takes a unique position between Lichtenstein’s sculptures Mobiles I-IV from 1989-1990 and paintings such as Interior with Mobile, 1992, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in which Calder’s iconic mobiles are situated within a domestic setting. Coming from the esteemed private collection of Betsy Burton, this work was created in an edition of 19, with another example residing in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City. 


    When Lichtenstein created the present work in 1990, he had firmly established himself as one of the leading contemporary artists of his time. Lichtenstein had been catapulted to fame in the 1960s for his paintings of appropriated clichéd images of lovestruck “All-American” women from comic book and magazine pages, rendered with his trademark graphic line and boldly colored Ben-Day dots. Late works such as Suspended Mobile show how Lichtenstein – while continuing to challenge deep-seated notions of authorship and originality, as well as the boundaries between “high” and “low” art –shifted his focus from popular culture to that of more established art historical traditions – exploring movements such as Futurism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and, in the early 1990s focusing on the iconicity of Alexander Calder’s mobiles in particular. 


    Alexander Calder, Mobile sur deux plans, 1962. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Artwork © 2020 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Employing his characteristic striping, Lichtenstein imbues Suspended Mobile with an undeniable sense of playfulness; he evokes the most iconic modern sculptural forms through the lens of his own Pop art idiom. Suspended Mobile is situated at the very juncture in which Lichtenstein would embark upon his Interiors, a series of works depicting banal domestic environments inspired by furniture ads. Filled with stylized artwork, the interiors make references both to Lichtenstein’s own artwork, as well as to artists such as Calder or Yves Klein in Interior with Mobile, 1992, or Interior with Yves Klein Sculpture, 1991, respectively. As in many of his works from this period, Lichtenstein with Suspended Mobile brilliantly explores the pastiche of established art historical traditions – including his own world-famous oeuvre.

    With the present work, as with his concurrent Mobile sculptures, Lichtenstein appropriates Calder’s iconic form in manner that subverts the core kinetic dimension so integral to them. Employing his paradigmatic strategy of flattening, Lichtenstein condenses the mobile into seemingly static form: if Calder’s mobiles move with the slightest touch or breeze, Lichtenstein’s mobile is immobile, but for its subtle shift in shadows cast into the concave interior of the frame.
    "There is really not that much difference aesthetically between two and three dimensions to me. I believe sculpture can be seen as a two-dimensional problem...As you turn the sculpture, or move your position, you continually perceive it differently." —Roy Lichtenstein

    Suspended Mobile articulates the central tenets that Lichtenstein explored in his seminal flat profile sculptures from the 1990s in the highly unique bas-relief, the result of a highly complex technical process.  Lichtenstein created this work, at the same time as his Water Lilies series, in close collaboration with Donald Saff and his team at Saff Tech Arts in Maryland. Printmaking lent itself perfectly to Lichtenstein’s fascination with serial imagery, and the technical possibilities afforded to him by working with Saff Tech Arts proved him with an unprecedented conceptual arena to challenge notions of originality and authorship. “[T]he ultimate it’s-not-what-it-looks-like-but-what-it is,” i as Mary Corlett put in a nutshell, Suspended Mobile exemplifies the brilliant conceptual edge with which Lichtenstein continued to experiment in new artforms throughout his long career. 


    Property from the Collection of the late Betsy Burton

    Betsy Burton (1951-2020) was a true pioneer in her career and her personal life. She distinguished herself as a 'turnaround CEO' working with Fortune 500 companies, serving as CEO for Zales, Tower Records, Supercuts and PIP Printing.  Burton also served on eight public boards including Staples, GNC, Sports Authority and Toys "R" Us.  She was an avid art collector and later in her life resided in Palm Desert, California. 


    i Mary Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné 1948-1993, New York, 1994, p. 41

    • Provenance

      Erika Meyerovich Gallery, San Francisco
      Betsy Burton (acquired from the above in 1992)
      Thence by descent to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Dallas Museum of Art, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein, October 30, 1994 – August 6, 1995, no. 84, n.p. (another example exhibited)

    • Literature

      Mary Lee Corlett, ed., The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein, A Catalogue Raisonné, 1948-1993, New York, 1994, no. 256, pp. 41, 235, 239, 300 (another example illustrated, p. 235)
      The Lilja Art Found Foundation, ed., Contemporary Master Prints from the Lilja Collection, London, 1995, p. 179 (another example illustrated, p. 235)
      Mary Lee Corlett, ed., The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein, A Catalogue Raisonné, 1948-1997, New York, 2002, no. 256, pp. 41, 239, 334 (another example illustrated, p. 235)
      Marilyn S. Kushner, Donald Saff: Art in Collaboration, Munich, 2010, fig. 74, pp. 85-86 (another example illustrated)

Property from the Collection of the late Betsy Burton


Suspended Mobile

signed, numbered and dated "19/19 rf Lichtenstein '90" on the backing; stamped with the Saff Tech Arts mark and number "RL90-002"
magna and silicone screenprint on polyester monofilament fabric, stretched over concave epoxy resin and fiberglass frame
50 3/4 x 75 3/4 x 3 7/8 in. (129 x 192.3 x 10 cm)
Executed in 1990-1991, this work is number 19 from an edition of 19 plus 1 bon a tirer, 2 printer's proofs, 1 presentation proof, 2 Saff Tech Arts proofs, 1 archive proof and 4 artist's proofs.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 200,000 

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

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

New York 8 December 2020