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Please note that at our discretion some lots may b… Read more THE EYE OF A SCULPTOR: WORKS FROM THE DAVID AND LAURA FINN COLLECTION

Red, White, and Blacks

Red, White, and Blacks
signed with the artist’s monogram and dated '57' (on the largest white element)
hanging mobile-sheet metal, wire and paint
43 x 81 x 11in. (109.2 x 205.7 x 27.9cm.)
Executed in 1957
Perls Galleries, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1961.
J. Canaday, 'Calder and Miro' in The New York Times, February 1961 (illustrated, p. 19).
'The Biggest Calder in the Country', in Scholastic News Time, October 1969 (illustrated, p. 9).
Calder / Miro: Chronology and Correspondence, exh cat., New York, Pace Gallery, 2017 (illustrated, p. 115).
New York, Perls Galleries, Alexander Calder / Joan Miro, 1961, p. 12, no. 8 (illustrated, p. 1).
Special notice
Please note that at our discretion some lots may be moved immediately after the sale to our storage facility at Momart Logistics Warehouse: Units 9-12, E10 Enterprise Park, Argall Way, Leyton, London E10 7DQ. At King Street lots are available for collection on any weekday, 9.00 am to 4.30 pm. Collection from Momart is strictly by appointment only. We advise that you inform the sale administrator at least 48 hours in advance of collection so that they can arrange with Momart. However, if you need to contact Momart directly: Tel: +44 (0)20 7426 3000 email: This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.
Further details
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07337.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Acquired six decades ago, and unseen in public during that time, Red, White, and Blacks is a majestic large-scale mobile dating from a landmark moment in Alexander Calder’s career. Spanning two metres in width, its thirteen circular discs are suspended in miraculous harmony, perpetually ensnared in a never-ending dance of light, colour and form. Created in 1957, the work stems from a period of international triumph in Calder’s career, which—after two years of travelling and working in locations across the globe—culminated in the completion of several career-defining public commissions, including the monumental mobile .125 for John F. Kennedy International Airport and Spirale for the Palais de l’UNESCO in Paris. With its dramatic scale and supple, linear cascade of different-sized discs, the present work witnesses the virtuosic ambition of this period. Its exhibition history, moreover, testifies to the significant relationship between Calder and his friend Joan Miró, having featured in their critically-acclaimed joint show at Perls Galleries, New York, in 1961. Another work from the exhibition—Laocoön (1947)—was later acquired by The Broad, Los Angeles.

Red, White, and Blacks was completed in Calder’s studio in Roxbury, Connecticut, where he had recently returned after an extended period of itinerant work. In 1954, he had travelled to Beirut, where—working in a room of the airport’s ticket office—he had completed a commission for Middle East Airlines. In 1955, he undertook a now-legendary trip to Ahmedabad, India: a thrilling cultural exchange, during which he completed eleven visionary sculptures in the home and gardens of the architect Gira Sarabhai. That summer, he set up a temporary studio in Caracas, working in the metal shop of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Immersing himself in new settings, often in makeshift studios with only a limited set of tools to hand, drove Calder’s practice to ever-greater heights during this period. He returned not only with a newfound global outlook, but also a renewed sense of dexterity, freedom and possibility that would find expression both in his studio work and his monumental public commissions. As well as .125, the present work takes its place alongside outstanding large-scale mobiles of this period, including Black, White, and Ten Red (1957, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) and Black: 17 Dots (1959, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago).

After attending the Art Students League in New York, and deciding to devote his life to art, Calder moved to Paris and became a pioneering artist during the 1920s and 1930s. It was there that a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio—where he was impressed by the installation-as-environment—signaled his shift to abstraction, and there—similarly—that Marcel Duchamp would coin the term ‘mobiles’ to describe the effervescent properties of his kinetic objects. It was also there that Calder had first encountered Miró: an artist with whom he would become close friends. The exhibition at Perls Galleries in 1961 was a testament to their enduring relationship, and was rapturously received, with John Canaday for The New York Times describing it as a ‘just about perfect show’. ‘The friendship, of thirty years standing’, he wrote, ‘is projected from every part of the two small rooms so happily and completes the distinction of this extraordinary show’ (J. Canaday, ‘Calder and Miró’, The New York Times, February 1961, p. 19). The present work was selected to illustrate the review, as well as featuring on the title page of the exhibition catalogue.

Discs and spheres are prevailing features of Calder’s work. As a young man in 1922, he had experienced an epiphany while serving as a fireman on a ship sailing from New York to San Francisco. ‘It was early one morning on a calm sea’, he recalled in his autobiography, ‘… I saw the beginning of a fiery red sunrise on one side and the moon looking like a silver coin on the other … it left me with a lasting sensation of the solar system’ (A. Calder, An Autobiography with Pictures, New York 1966, pp. 54-55). Calder would later describe the ‘sphere and the circle’ as the ‘simplest forms in the universe … even my triangles are spheres, but they are spheres of a different shape’ (A. Calder, quoted in K. Kuh, ‘Alexander Calder’, The Artist’s Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists, New York 1962, p. 38). Indeed, the present work’s circles of flaming red are infused with echoes of nature’s magnitudes: spun into motion by the slightest gust of air, they move unexpectedly around their black and white counterparts, never the same twice.

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