Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM AN ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)


Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
hanging mobile—sheet metal, wire and paint
66 ½ x 43 x 42in. (168.9 x 109.2 x 106.7cm.)
Executed circa 1947
Stamo and Audrey Papadaki, Washington, Connecticut (gift of the artist circa 1947).
Their sale, Christie's New York, 13 May 1998, lot 251.
Collection of William Rubin, New York.
His sale, Sotheby's New York, 10 May 2005, lot 32.
Private Collection, New York.
Kukje Gallery, Seoul.
Anon. sale; Seoul Auction, Hong Kong, 29 November 2015, lot 52.
Private collection, Seoul.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Riehen, Foundation Beyeler, Calder-Miró, 2004, no. 67, p. 250 (illustrated in colour, p. 232).
New York, Jonathan O’Hara Gallery, Alexander Calder: Mobiles, 2006.
Special notice
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Further details
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A10735.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

‘The art of Calder is the sublimation of a tree in the wind’
–Marcel Duchamp

‘I was very interested in the reproductions of your sculptures. I have looked at them many times, and they are something completely unexpected. You are taking a path full of great possibilities. Bravo!’
–Joan Miro in a letter to Alexander Calder

Created circa 1947, Untitled is an eloquent large-scale example of Alexander Calder’s suspended mobiles. During the early 2000s it was held in the collection of William Rubin – the influential scholar, collector and curator, credited with dramatically expanding the holdings of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, during his directorship between 1968 and 1988. Whilst in his possession, the work was included in the Fondation Beyeler’s major exhibition Calder-Miró in 2004. Levitating elegantly above the ground, its metal branches sprout organically in multiple directions while small discs of colour emerge like buds from every wire tip. Resembling a delicate plant growing naturally upwards, the work relies on a perfect system of balance which allows the free movement of each poised element. Calder had been working on developing kinetic sculptures since the early 1930s, but they grew drastically in popularity and recognition after his 1946 solo show at the Galerie Louis Carré in Paris which primarily featured hanging and standing mobiles. The huge impact of this exhibition, just a year before he worked on Untitled, was further enhanced by the essay written for its catalogue by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. It was followed by another successful show in 1947, this time a joint exhibition with Fernand Léger at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which solidified the status of Calder’s mobiles and his position at the forefront of Modernism.

Although Calder originally trained as an engineer, his artistic practice was born of an instinctive approach to balance, weight distribution and aerodynamics. As a child he displayed a flair for conjuring up creative designs and understanding the possibilities of different materials in the context of basic kinetic objects. Unsurprisingly, this eventually led him to study engineering at a university where he excelled in the subject. However, by the 1920s Calder found himself in Paris where he became immersed in its vibrant art scene and consequently began directing his technical skills into art.

It was a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930 that unexpectedly triggered reverberations through Calder’s artistic practice that would be felt for decades to come. After witnessing the coloured cardboard shapes pinned to the artist’s walls as a method of experimenting with compositions, Calder was inspired to search for ways in which movement could be incorporated into his works. ‘I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate’, he recalled (A. Calder, An Autobiography with Pictures, New York 1966, p. 113). Though Mondrian was not as enthused by this concept as Calder, the latter started developing this idea in his own studio. Just a year later the first moving elements had emerged in Calder’s works as weighty materials suddenly became majestically airborne.

Captivated by the visual harmony of Calder’s kinetic forms, Marcel Duchamp first coined the term ‘mobiles’ for this body of works. ‘The art of Calder is the sublimation of a tree in the wind’, he claimed (M. Duchamp, entry on Calder for the Société Anonyme catalogue (1950), reprinted in M. Duchamp, Duchamp du Signe, Paris 1975, p. 196). Gracefully mimicking the movement of the air in the spaces they inhabit, these hanging sculptures cast myriad everchanging shadows on the walls that surround them. The biomorphic forms painted in stark yellow, red, white and black that crown each wired component in Untitled display a distinct affinity with the outlines and hues that would come to be emblematic of Modernism. Like his contemporaries and friends, including Mondrian, Miró and Jean Arp, Calder contributed to their development of a visual syntax centred on distinct shapes rendered in bold colours with a strong emphasis on line. ‘I have chiefly limited myself to the use of black and white as being the most disparate colours. Red is the colour most opposed to both of these – and then, finally, the other primaries. The secondary colours and intermediate shades serve only to confuse and muddle the distinctness and clarity’ (A. Calder, quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, p. 230). In Untitled the restricted palette of primary colours imbues the overall composition with raw vivacity. For Calder colour was always an intrinsic part of the composition rather than merely a decorative addition and, in this manner, the work presented here acts as a wonderful summation of this notion.

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