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Naum Gabo (1890-1977)
Property from a Private Collector
Naum Gabo (1890-1977)

Linear Construction in Space No. 2

Naum Gabo (1890-1977)
Linear Construction in Space No. 2
signed twice 'N GABO Gabo' (near the lower edge)
Perspex with nylon monofilament
Height: 15 1/8 in. (38.5 cm.)
Executed circa 1957-1958; unique
Acquired from the artist by the family of the present owner, 1958.
C. Sanderson and C. Lodder, Naum Gabo, Sixty Years of Construction Including Catalogue Raisonné of the Constructions and Sculptures, Dallas, 1986, p. 236, no. 55.12.
Caracas, Fundaciòn Eugenio Mendoza, De Rodin a nuestros días, October 1961, no. 23 (dated 1949 with incorrect medium).
Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, 57 Obras de la Colección Carlos Raúl Villanueva, 1972, no. 22.

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Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

Having followed an émigré odyssey from Moscow to Berlin, Paris, and London, Gabo moved to America in 1946. He exhibited in 1948 with his brother Antoine Pevsner at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and in the following year he received his first commission in America. Nelson Rockefeller asked him to provide designs for the two lobbies of the recently completed Esso Oil Company building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. Gabo wrote: "I have seen the place and I think that the whole thing is a challenge to me. I have the feeling that here is a case where I simply have to show what Constructive art can do in connection with architecture... to prove that the Constructive sculpture is not just a theory for heaven but a very real, aesthetic solution to our everyday life" (quoted in M. Hammer and C. Lodder, Construction Modernity, The Art & Career of Naum Gabo, New Haven, 2000, p. 322).
The 52nd street lobby was the larger of the two entrances, and for it Gabo built a model comprising a triptych of constructions—a large fountain and basin for the central lobby space, set between revolving doors on each side, above each of which he mounted a rotating upright construction whose curvilinear forms suggested the motion of the revolving doors below. Rockefeller liked Gabo's designs, as did the company board of Esso, but the latter then balked at cost estimates and rejected the project. Rockefeller paid Gabo for his time and work, and the sculptor presented his models to The Museum of Modern Art.
Gabo preserved and further elaborated on his conception of the rotating constructions above the Esso lobby doors in Linear Construction in Space No. 2. Martin Hammer and Christina Lodder have written, "The overall profile of the constructions is asymmetrical from almost all viewpoints. The cumulative effect of the minimal contact with the base, the asymmetry and rhythmical curvature of the edges is a strong suggestion, even when the form is static, of continuous pirouetting movement around a vertical axis... The stringing is employed less to create form than to evoke a gossamer-like layering if interpenetrating planes, more densely clustered toward the center of the sculpture. The cut-out shapes, picked out by reflected light, further accentuate the core of the form. The effect is highly tangible... reinforced by the transformations in the pattern of reflections and highlights which occur with every shift in the orientation of the viewer" (ibid., pp. 324-325).
Linear Construction in Space No. 2 was one of Gabo's favorite works, and during the 1950s it was the one he most often placed in exhibitions. The first version was completed in late 1949 soon after Gabo submitted his Esso designs, exhibited in 1950 and acquired from the artist in 1952 by the Addison Gallery of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Gabo created twenty-six versions in all, the last circa 1976. These constructions were made alternatively to stand vertically upright, lay horizontally on a base, or suspended above a base. Gabo executed the constructions in various sizes, ranging from 11¾ in. (30 cm.) to nearly 45¼ in. (115 cm.) in height or length. One version was destroyed in 1970, and of the twenty-five remaining, nine are presently in museum and institutional collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

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