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Audio: Alexander Calder, Pierrot
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
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Property from the Estate of David Pincus
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)


Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
signed with initials and dated 'CA '61' (on the largest yellow element)
hanging mobile--painted sheet metal, rod and wire
25 x 92 in. (63.5 x 233.7 cm.)
Executed in 1961.
Perls Galleries, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1961
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Collects 20th Century, October-November 1963.

Lot Essay

The Pincus Collection

David Pincus had an innate and immediate connection to the arts, and began collecting in his late twenties. By 1960, the New York art scene was on the threshold of a nascent generation of soon-to-be identified Pop artists. It was an exciting time, and David, together with his wife, Gerry, were actively visiting galleries and seeing exhibitions in New York and abroad. The collection reflected their early passion for the art of their time, beginning with Modern European sculpture, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and culminating in powerful works by Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman, and Nan Goldin.

David and Gerry began to build their collection with artists from the New York School. One of their earliest acquisitions was Franz Kline, De Medici, 1956, acquired in 1963. This powerful and important picture was one of the earliest acquisitions and lead David and Gerry to eventually acquire works by Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, and Mark Rothko.

David and Gerry loved collecting artists in depth and the collection was notable for representing an artist's work in paintings, drawings and sculpture. They had a deep appreciation for Willem de Kooning and acquired works throughout his career. Included in this sale, are works from 1945 until 1987, showing the full spectrum of de Kooning's genius.
The collection continued to evolve and in the 1980s, David and Gerry became aware of the work of Anselm Kiefer, an artist who was extremely important to the Pincuses. David and Gerry visited his studio on their many trips to Europe and Kiefer visited the Pincuses at their home in Philadelphia. Widely exhibited, Eisen-Steig, 1986, is one of the most powerful and imposing works from The Pincus Collection.

David and Gerry's involvement in the art world lead to their support of several institutions. David was an early board member of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, which opened in 1962, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where David served on the board for more than 35 years. The plight of children in need was a passion and primary charitable focus for the Pincuses. David attributed his heightened passion for children's causes to a 1984 trip to Ethiopia to aid with famine relief. David brought warmth and hope wherever he traveled, believing strongly that even the simplest gestures of kindness could have a positive impact on someone in need. This was famously symbolized by David's signature Snoopy dolls, which he gave to children and adults wherever he went. To him, Snoopy was a portable symbol of joy and childhood that would translate to children of every nation and walk of life.

The Pincus family has been involved in numerous non-profit organizations and projects throughout the years, including International Rescue Committee, Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Institute of Contemporary Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Fairmount Park Art Association, American Jewish Would Service, CARE, and Penn State University.

David gave so much to so many; it is impossible to fully comprehend the extraordinary commitment and reach of this one man. His dedication to those in need will continue through the efforts of the Pincus Family Foundation and those close to him, who share his vision and passion for humanity.

Works from The Pincus Collection were offered in May 2012, at Christie's New York. World record prices were achieved for Barnett Newman's Onement V, 1952, Jackson Pollock's Number 28 1951, 1951, Jeff Wall's Dead Troops Talk (A Vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986), 1992 and Mark Rothko's magisterial Orange, Red, Yellow, 1961. The most highly valued Collection of Post-War and Contemporary Art ever sold, and the sale of the works from The Pincus Collection achieved a total of $180 million.

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07588.

With a name evoking the exuberant Commedia dell'Arte figure, Alexander Calder's mobile presents brightly-colored discs along an expansive horizontal format. In large, majestic movements, its silent rhythm and theatrical tone recall Pierrot's pantomime act, which incorporates music and dance but remains primarily visual. Though Calder's mobile format is inherently dynamic and performative, the artist constructs Pierrot on a large scale, 92 inches wide, to create a true spectacle. Executed in 1961, its size is clearly informed by the artist's contemporaneous monumental projects.

Divided into two distinct parts, Calder creates a cascading network of red, yellow and blue discs alongside another cluster of perforated black and white discs. While resolutely abstract, the mobile recalls the oft-depicted theatrical duo, Harlequin and Pierrot, famously rendered by Pablo Picasso and André Derain. In fact, Calder's color scheme bears resemblance to both Harlequin's prismatic costume of red, yellow and blue patchwork and Pierrot's white dress and floured face. Their harlequinade act integrates visual creativity into theater, making it an apt subject matter for Calder's 1961 mobile, that similarly combines striking aesthetics with performative movement.

Commedia dell'Arte, translates to "a comedy of improvisational craft," and recalls Calder's long history with spontaneously-conceived performances. Among his most famous is Calder's Circus, which consists of more than seventy small figures and animals that play different roles according to the artist's ad-libbed narrative. Calder imbues Pierrot with the same spontaneity, humor and gaiety of his earlier work. The artist said of his mobiles, "I am not trying to make people happier by my work. But it happens that all those who have something of mine, painting, mobile or static statue, say that it makes them very happy. For example, children adore mobile statues and understand their meaning immediately" (A. Calder quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 54).

Executed at the height of his career, Pierrot demonstrates Calder's unrivaled ability to translate the delicacy and complexity of his smaller mobiles into larger scale. With measurements half-way between his intimate mobiles and his monumental ones, Pierrot exemplifies the artist's ability to render intricate structures at any dimension. The artist observed, "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). With its expansive format and striking aesthetic, this 1961 mobile exemplifies Calder's famous statement.

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