Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
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Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
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Property from The Foundation Mireille and James Lévy
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Double Humpbacked Crinkly

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Double Humpbacked Crinkly
incised with the artist's monogram and date 'CA 70' (on the blue element)
standing mobile—sheet metal, wire and paint
18 x 43 ½ x 34 in. (45.7 x 110.5 x 86.4 cm.)
Executed in 1970.
Estate of the artist
M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Private collection, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1982
Viviane Bregman Fine Art, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1984
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc, Alexander Calder: Standing Mobiles, December 1980-January 1981, p. 14 (illustrated).
Further details
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A02084.

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Lot Essay

Just as one can compose colors, or forms, so one can compose motions.
—A. Calder, quoted in Modern Painting and Sculpture, exh. cat., Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, 1933

Extending over three feet at its longest expanse, Double Humpbacked Crinkly (1970) embodies the best of Alexander Calder’s (1898-1976) mature style, towards the close of a decades-long, global career spent wrangling the forces of nature into inventive, unforgettable movable shapes. Presenting differently depending on the direction of viewing, the present lot features all of Calder’s signature colors – rich royal blue offset by nuanced eggshell atop a scarlet, ebony and sunshine yellow base. As if the object is breaching the waves, the red and black bent sheet metal switches this way and that, transmuting material to energetic magic. Delicately swaying opposite the plunging blue droplet, three of the artist’s signature abstract forms firmly root this stabile in the lineage of an oeuvre characterized by an unparalleled understanding of life’s dualities – rigidity versus fluidity, stillness versus dynamism, technology versus nature.

Calder, ever the curious cosmopolitan, created artworks that evolved in ingenious ways amid changing directions in contemporary art, while staying true to his distinctive practice of setting sculptures in motion. The hard-edge geometry of the present lot, then, is more than just a necessary complement to the more natural upper elements, but also an engagement with an art world reeling from the confounding effects of Minimalism. The color studies enacted by the likes of Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella at the end of the 1960s into the 1970s directly communicate with the separate panels of color in Double Humpbacked Crinkly, crafting an aesthetic narrative for a new, post-painterly world. Ironically, though, Calder had long ago diverged from traditional art world practices, announcing his challenge instead in the realm of fixed form by asserting its inherent potential for movement. Thus, this 1970 work simultaneously testifies to Calder’s ongoing resonance with the work of his contemporaries while reinstating him as the original defector, the one who dared think differently in the face of established customs.

As a direct contrast to the artist’s exploration of geometric abstraction, the upper elements of Double Humpbacked Crinkly proclaim an enduring preoccupation with capturing that which only manifests in nature in man-made materials. Exercising his intuitive knowledge of precise balance, Calder allows for chance to enter the design by resting rather than securing a fragile wire at the top of the black vertical form. In addition to the naturally derived models at each end of the wire, then, the physical world is also welcomed into the overall composition of the sculpture by acting on it at will: “Just as one can compose colors, or forms, so one can compose motions” (A. Calder, quoted in Modern Painting and Sculpture, exh. cat., Pittsfield, Berkshire Museum, 1933). The entire experience hence orchestrated by the maestro himself, Double Humpbacked Crinkly offers not just a single moment of pleasure at first sight but a continuous living existence, malleable to its core yet true to its aspect.

Thus, taking his impetus from both his experience of the natural world and as a pioneer in the art world, Calder’s penultimate works, including the present lot, reaffirm his position as harnesser of the wind and the wild: “Since the beginning of my work in abstract art, and even though it was not obvious at that time, I felt that there was no better model for me to work from than the Universe... Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space, surrounded by vivid clouds and tides, currents of air, viscosities and fragrances – in their utmost variety and disparity” (A. Calder, quoted in C. Giménez & A.S.C. Rower, eds., Calder: Gravity and Grace, London, 2004, p. 52).

Property from The Foundation Mireille and James Lévy
Connoisseurs in the truest sense of the word, Mireille And James Lévy sought out objects with which they formed a very personal connection, displaying them with finesse and pride in their exquisite homes in Switzerland, New York and Los Angeles. Undeterred by academic classifications, their premise was “collecting pioneers of style and time. It goes without saying that we must find the works aesthetically pleasing,” the couple told Architectural Digest in March 1987, “but what most interests us is that these artists are witnesses to their time.”

A veritable witness to his time, Alexander Calder (1898-1976) captured both the energy and innovation of the twentieth century in his distinctive shaping of form using color and air. The works offered from The Foundation Mireille and James Lévy, Double Humpbacked Crinkly and Mushroom Has Red Face, tell a compelling story of Calder’s maturing understanding of balance in the context of his iconic stabile practice. Each in the Lévy collection for over two decades, these two special examples not only encompass the best of the artist’s body of work, but speak to the keen collecting eye with which Mireille and James Lévy approached the building of their collection for posterity.

Now their largess continues, as the proceeds from the sale of these works will continue the Lévy legacy of extraordinary philanthropy. Many institutions in the United States, Switzerland and Israel, including hospitals, medical research centers, museums and resettlement agencies for Jewish refugees, have received donations during the Lévys’ lifetime, and will continue to do so now, through The Foundation Mireille And James Lévy, the primary beneficiary of their joint estate.

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