• Post-War & Contemporary Art Ev auction at Christies

    Sale 2597

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

    14 November 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 30

    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

    Untitled

    Price Realised  

    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
    Untitled
    signed with initials, inscribed and dated 'CARMEN SEGRE CA 58' (on the largest red element)
    hanging mobile--painted sheet metal and wire
    23 x 61 x 8 in. (58.4 x 154.9 x 20.3 cm.)
    Executed in 1958.


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under the application number A19077.

    Created during Calder's turn to monumental sculpture, Untitled memorializes the artist's close collaboration with Carmen Segretario --his friend and colleague who was responsible for producing some of the artist's most famous large-scale sculptures. Precisely engineered and colored for graphic impact, the mobile retains the artist's ability to create harmony within the limitations of an asymmetrical structure, while at the same time exploring his growing interest in monumentally scaled works. Originating from a single, graceful loop of red wire, the mobile structure cascades outward in three tiers to one side, and a shallow constellation of oblong shapes on the other. Each wire branch is punctuated by a brightly colored metal disc arranged in a rhythmic network. The contrast of the weighty polygons and the lightness of the oblong shapes emphasize the structure's asymmetry. Though most of the wire-suspended discs hang downward, Calder creates an appearance of weightlessness by arranging his painted forms along a horizontal spread.

    By the late 1950s, Calder produced mobiles almost exclusively for close friends and family. Yet few gifts were so intrinsically related to the evolution of his work as this 1958 example. Here, the artist demonstrates his gratitude towards Segretario, whose foundry was responsible for transforming his aluminum models into sky-high, steel monuments. In 1958, the year Calder created Untitled, the pair worked together on one of their first commissions, the colossal La Spirale sculpture which was destined for the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. As a mark of their growing friendship, in the present lot Calder etched Segretario's name into one of the metal discs, demonstrating his personal appreciation towards the foundry owner and marking the beginning of a thirty year-long collaborative effort.

    Segretario was recruited by Calder to construct the mobile section of the large sculpture, helping to assemble the top mobile in Paris. He soon became the chief producer of Calder's large scale works, often working on six projects simultaneously. The foundry, close to Calder's Roxbury, Connecticut home, even served as an open-air gallery before the stabiles were sold. In Calder's autobiography, he writes of his collaborative role with Carmen Segretario: "I say I was aided, but actually I took the place of the helper and worked under their direction to achieve the desired result. A helper I was" (A. Calder, Calder: an Autobiography with Pictures, New York, 1977, p. 258). Segretario's collaborative role was also crucial to the execution of other key works like Stegosaurus (1973) on the grounds of the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art.

    But Segretario's most significant contribution to Calder's career was his participation in Calder's last work, Mountains and Clouds. Calder designed the maquette in the last year of his life for the U.S. Senate, and designated Segretario to construct the massive stabile. Originally meant to be constructed in 1979 for the Hart Senate Office Building, Mountains and Clouds was not built until 1985 due to government budget cuts. The massive project, constructed of sheet steel and weighing 35 tons, spans the entire nine-story height of the building's atrium in Washington D.C. As a posthumous tribute to Calder, Mountains and Clouds further demonstrates Segretario's loyalty to his late creative partner, and his vital role in Calder's best-known works. With this Untitled work, Calder is able to return to a close relationship with his materials. Because of his familiarity with sheet metal, wire and paint, this 1958 mobile exhibits the contrast, balance, motion and simplicity found in some of his most successful works. As much as Calder demonstrates a rhythmic balance with his mature engineering skills, he also manages to include the anomalies that are inherent in natural order. The artist includes a cut-out portion in the central yellow disc supported at a right angle to the ground. Supported out against gravity, Calder allows one disc to be released from the heavy restraints of their downward pull. The artist himself explained, "Disparity in form, color, size, weight, motion, is what makes a composition... It is the apparent accident to regularity which the artist actually controls by which he makes or mars a work" (A. Calder, quoted in J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, London, 1977, p. 33). Calder's embrace of irregularity is seen once more when he lets natural forces like wind be a crucial part of his work. His return to delicate structures in Untitled demonstrates his renewed interest in the unpredictable effects of nature.

    Despite its delicate form, the grand nature of Calder's enormous works may be seen in the emphatic tone of this smaller mobile. The artist would later reflect, "People think that monuments should come out of the ground, never out of the ceiling, but mobiles can be monumental too" (A. Calder quoted in J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, London, 1977, p. 268). Untitled demonstrates how Calder's work may appear monumental in character, even on a small-scale format. The artist imbued this work with the serious ambition of large scale structures, yet manages to retain a playful and personalized feel. Untitled necessarily marks Carmen Segretario's contribution in expanding Calder's technical possibilities and acts as a fitting tribute to their essential partnership, and to the new large-scale format they were set to embark on.

    Provenance

    Carmen Segretario, Connecticut, acquired directly from the artist
    Private collection, New York
    Pace Wildenstein, New York
    Private collection, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner