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    Sale 1150


    13 November 2002, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 19

    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

    S-Shaped Vine

    Price Realised  


    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
    S-Shaped Vine
    hanging mobile--painted sheet metal and wire
    height: 98½ in. (250.2 cm.)
    span: 69 in. (175.3 cm.)
    Executed in 1946.

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    This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A08962.

    S-Shaped Vine is an important large-scale hanging mobile that was exhibited in a breakthrough 1946 exhibition at Galerie Louis Carré in Paris. Calder had been celebrated in a major retrospective in 1943-1944 at the Museum of Modern Art--the youngest artist to be given such treatment--but was less known in Europe. Although his bi-continental living arrangement between New York and Paris had made him many friends in art world circles, he had not had a solo show in Europe since 1933.

    Executed in New York, the sculpture for the Carré show were shipped piecemeal to Paris. Due to postal restrictions, no package could be larger than 18 x 10 x 2 inches, prompting Calder to create works that could easily be dismantled. The challenge was to work within the restriction, yet still create a body of large-scale works for the cavernous gallery space. Calder brilliantly succeeded, exhibiting a diverse body of unique mobiles, stabiles and constellations. After months of logistical problems, mislaid packages and customs difficulties, the exhibition opened on 25 October 1946 to widespread praise, marking the beginning of Calder's international acclaim which continues to the present date.

    S-Shaped Vine's subject is an abstracted natural form, ostensibly a sinuous vine with various-shaped leaves and flowers. Scattered elements are punctured with various shapes that both influence the movement of the sculpture through the air as well as bring the sculpture to life with its suggestions of mouths and eyes. When in motion, the "leaves" jauntily dance on the branches, which shoot off from the sculpture's twisted "backbone." Calder's manipulation of the size of the elements, which are tiny at the bottom and grow in size towards the top, give the sculpture a powerful expanding sensation, like a blooming flower or an ecstatic dancer in rapturous movement.

    At Calder's request, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the introduction for the exhibition catalogue:
    "Sculpture suggests motion, painting suggests light or space. Calder suggests nothing, he fashions real, living motions which he has captured. His mobiles signify nothing, refer to nothing but themselves: they are, that is all: they are absolutes...The motions, which are meant only to please, to enchant the eye, have nevertheless a profound meaning, a metaphysical one. Motion must come to the mobile from some source. Once Calder supplied them with electric motors. Today he abandons them to nature, in a garden or near an open window. He lets them flutter in the wind like aeolian harps. They breathe, they are nourished by the air. They take their lives from the mysterious life of the atmosphere" (Quoted in J. Marter, Alexander Calder, Cambridge 1991, p. 215).

    Fig. 1 Cover of the 1946 Louis Carré catalogue
    Courtesy The Alexander and Luisa Calder Foundation
    c Art Resource, New York

    Special Notice

    On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale. This interest may include guaranteeing a minimum price to the consignor of property or making an advance to the consignor which is secured solely by consigned property. Such property is offered subject to a reserve. This is such a lot


    M. Knoedler & Co., New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1979

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of Rita and Toby Schreiber


    Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, October-November 1946, no. 14.
    New York, M. Knoedler and Co., Alexander Calder/Fernand Léger, October 1979, no. 6 (illustrated).
    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Rotunda Re-opening, April-July 1980.
    Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art and San Francisco Museum of Art, Alexander Calder: 1898-1976, March-December 1998, pp. 228 and 243, no. 196 (illustrated in color; illustrated in color on the exhibition poster).