• Post-War and Contemporary Art  auction at Christies

    Sale 2558

    Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning Session

    9 May 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 121

    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

    The Yellow Loop

    Price Realised  


    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
    The Yellow Loop
    signed with artist's monogram and dated 'CA 61' (on the largest element)
    hanging mobile--painted sheet metal and wire
    30 x 51½ in. (76.2 s 130.8 cm.)
    Executed in 1961.

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    This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07450.

    'When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises'
    (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 261)

    Composed of a group of multi-colored and variously shaped elements circling majestically around each other, The Yellow Loop exemplifies the dynamic sense of movement and color that Calder inserted into his most memorable works. The graceful arc composed of the delicate yellow, red, orange, and black elements is carefully counter-balanced by the more substantial black and blue fins, which act as both a visual and structural counter-balance within the work. This successful combination is evidence of Calder's exceptional talents not only as an artist, but also as an engineer, a talent which enabled him to harness the physical forces of his chosen medium with such spectacular and delightful effect. Added to his engineering skill is his bold use of color, which when combined with the sensation of movement, produces some of the most visually spectacular works of his generation. For Calder, color was not a representational force but rather an emotional one, in much the same way as the historical pioneers in non-traditional use of color such as Henri Matisse and André Derain. As Calder himself once commented: 'I want things to be differentiated. Black and white are first - then red is next. I often wish that I had been a fauve in 1905.' (A. Calder, Calder, London 2004, p. 89).

    The colors, shapes, and lines of The Yellow Loop closely relate to the visual language of another modern master, Joan Miro. Calder and Miro were friends for much of their lives: they met in Paris in the 1920s and developed as artists alongside each other as peers. Both were interested in bringing elements of play and whimsicality into their art, and both sought to depict elements from nature in their work through the use of abstract forms. The shapes and colors of The Yellow Loop are particularly akin to those Miro used in his painting, Women at the Edge of the Lake Made Irridescent by the Passage of a Swan (Constellation). Both works contain floating biomorphic forms that are connected by delicate black lines; in the case of Miro's work, the forms float on an atmospheric background, in Calder's, the forms literally float in the air. Miro's painting is sub-titled "Constellation" and it is possible to see in The Yellow Loop a series of heavenly bodies circling around a central sun-like element, the yellow loop, for which the sculpture is named.

    The Yellow Loop clearly demonstrates the all-encompassing universality of Calder's art. His unique ability was to create works of exquisitely balanced composition which retain their harmony when moved by the merest breath of wind. The striking colored elements are all coupled together using a series of exceptional mechanisms that allow them to move independently of each other yet retaining a unity that ensures that none of the elements dominate or touch each other. While it conjures up the association of a constellation, The Yellow Loop is not fettered by any direct notion of representation. Instead, it interacts with its environment and its viewer, participating actively in the universe in its own right. A push or a gust of wind will set its carefully balanced elements in motion, introducing the magical element of chance and movement that make Calder's sculptures so fascinating. As Calder himself said, 'When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises' (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 261).

    Calder's Yellow Loop was a gift from the artist to Mary Beasom Bishop, an artist and financial backer of the Haystack Mountain School of the Arts, located in Deer Isle, Maine. Mrs. Bishop was a resident of Flint, Michigan, who after taking a brief course at the Penland School of Handicrafts in Penland, North Carolina, realized the need for more schools of this type.

    Joan Miro, Women at the Edge of the Lake Made Irridescent by the Passage of a Swan (Constellation), 1941.


    Mary Beasom Bishop, acquired from the artist
    Elizabeth Catto, Oscoda, Michigan, by descent from the above
    By descent from the above to the present owners