• Post-War and Contemporary Morn auction at Christies

    Sale 2792

    Post-War and Contemporary Morning Session

    13 November 2013, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 183

    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

    Water Bug

    Price Realised  


    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
    Water Bug
    incised with initials 'CA' (on white element)
    standing mobile--painted sheet metal and wire
    27½ x 14½ x 8½ in. (69.8 x 36.8 x 21 cm.)
    Executed in 1950.

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    This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A07750.

    Alexander Calder is well-known for his humorous and whimsical creatures. In the present lot, he abstracts the playful water bug, also known as the water strider, who has the unique ability to walk across the water's surface, relying on an oval body supported by spindly legs. Although not a literal translation, Water Bug evokes the ethereal nature of the creature with its slender sculptural base and elongated hanging elements.
    Executed in 1950, Water Bug stands among some of the most sought-after works by the artist: those created during the heady era of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Visually balanced and ingeniously engineered, it exemplifies the feeling of weightlessness typical of standing mobiles of the period, as well as that of its namesake. Its open triangular base appears to support itself effortlessly, while the oval elements hang from the structure in a dramatic state of tension. Together, they maintain a sense of dynamic stability, as if suspended on the surface of an invisible body of water. This connection with aquatic movement, while suggested by the structural composition, is made explicit by Calder's christening of the work as a water bug.
    Water Bug's steadiness is a remarkable feat of calculated construction. Its elements are connected to one another through a network of delicate cables that puncture and penetrate the elements' surfaces, achieving a steady flow from one form to the next. This circuit is fixed to the gravity-defying base by a simple S-hook that allows the sensation of buoyancy to pervade. Through this unified composition of stable base and active elements, Water Bug engages with the relationships between air and water, balance and movement, sinking and floating.


    Perls Galleries, New York
    Private collection, New York, 1971
    Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 13 May 1998, lot 271
    Private collection, Illinois
    The Pace Gallery, New York
    Private collection, Geneva
    Acquired from the above by the present owner