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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from the Collection of Annabelle and David Prager

Uprooted Whip

Uprooted Whip
incised with the artist’s monogram ‘CA’ (on the black painted passage)
stabile—sheet metal and paint
73 x 39 x 32 in. (185.4 x 99.1 x 81.3 cm.)
Executed in 1940.
The artist
Perls Galleries, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1970
VVV, no. 1, New York, June 1942, p. 9 (installation view illustrated).
A. Pierre, “Mouvement et Réalité dans L’oeuvre de Calder: Des Années de Formation à la Maturité,” PhD diss., Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris, 1995, fig. 507 (illustrated).
Alexander Calder: The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus Perls, exh. cat., Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1997, p. 6 (installation view illustrated).
Alexander Calder: 1898-1976, exh. cat., Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1998, p. 134, no. 27 (studio view illustrated).
Calder: Poetry in Motion, exh. cat., Seoul, Kukje Gallery, 2003, p. 12 (studio view illustrated).
Calder: The Forties, exh. cat., London, Thomas Dane, 2005, p. 3 (studio view illustrated).
The Surreal Calder, exh. cat., Houston, The Menil Collection, 2005, p. 106 (studio view illustrated).
Alexander Calder: The Modernist, exh. cat., Zürich, Galerie Gmurzynska, 2005, p. 78 (studio view illustrated).
K. P. B. Vail, ed., The Museum of Non-Objective Painting: Hilla Rebay and the Origins of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2009, p. 265 (illustrated as a drawing by Calder included in a letter).
Calders Portraits: A New Language, exh. cat., Washington D.C., National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2011, p. 25, no. 19 (studio view illustrated).
Calder 1941, exh. cat., New York, Pace Gallery, 2011, pp. 10 and 43 (studio view illustrated).
Calder Gallery, exh. cat., Riehen, Fondation Beyeler, 2012, p. 10 (studio view illustrated).
A. S. C. Rower, Calder by Matter, Paris, 2013, pp. 106 and 108-109 (studio view illustrated).
Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013, p. 30 (studio view illustrated).
Alexander Calder: Retrospective, exh. cat., Moscow, Pushkin Museum, 2015, p. 141 (studio view illustrated).
J. Perl, Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898–1940, New York, 2017, p. 561 (studio view illustrated).
Calder: Constellations, exh. cat., New York, Pace Gallery, 2017, p. 28, fig. 4 (studio view illustrated).
Alexander Calder: Teatro de Encuentros, exh. cat., Buenos Aires, Fundación Proa, 2018, pp. 152 and 190 (studio view illustrated).
The Life of Forms: An Exploration of Modern Sculpture, exh. cat., New York, Di Donna, 2018, p. 55 (studio view illustrated).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Museum of Non-Objective Painting, Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, June-October 1942.
New York, Perls Galleries, Alexander Calder: Recent Gouaches Early Mobiles, October-November 1970, p. 6, no. 6 (illustrated).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it 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. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.
Further details
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A02611.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

Alexander Calder’s Uprooted Whip, executed in 1940, is a triumphal example of one of the artist’s early stabile sculptural forms. Rising from the ground on four pointed stems—three red, and one startling blue— unfurling in sinuous, anthropomorphic splendor, its black tip snaking elegantly towards the sky. The artist Jean Arp had first used the term “stabile” in 1931 in reference to Calder’s small static sculptures; the word stood in deliberate opposition to “mobile”, the name which Marcel Duchamp had proposed as an apt descriptor for the artist’s hanging, freely-moving sculptures. The increased scale and ambition of the stabiles from 1937 onwards reflected Calder’s growing international acclaim, which resulted in major commissions for the Paris World’s Fair and the new Museum of Modern Art building in New York, as well as the artist’s first retrospective. In 1942, the work was included in the Fifth Anniversary Exhibition at New York’s Museum of Non-Objective Painting—subsequently known as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—thus inscribing it in the institution’s early history. It was acquired by the Pragers in 1970, and remained under their stewardship for the rest of their lives.

Despite the non-kinetic nature of these stabiles, Uprooted Whip is nonetheless infused with a palpable sense of organic motion. The expression ‘drawing in space’ had been variously used in relation to Calder’s early mobiles, and a similarly liberated, graphic impetus is evident in the present work’s sensuous linear form. A loose, vivacious sketch of the piece in a letter to Hilla Rebay, who was instrumental in the establishment of both the Museum of Non-Objective Painting and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, demonstrates the intuitive sense of animation with which Calder conceived the work. Rebay subsequently acquired a hybrid mobile-stabile (Yucca, 1941) from the same period for the museum’s collection, which the celebrated photographer Herbert Matter had photographed in Calder’s Roxbury studio alongside Uprooted Whip. While the influences of Surrealism and geometric abstraction are evident—Calder was close to Joan Miró, and had been inspired early on by a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio—the work also demonstrates the artist’s evolving dialogue with the natural world. Plants, animals and the cosmos came to nourish his aesthetic during this period: here, the term “whip” refers to a young unbranched tree, its exposed roots imbuing the work with a curiously metamorphic, near-human quality. Combining rigorous engineering with visionary fantasy, it is a testament to the spirit of innovation and imagination that the Pragers themselves embodied.

Two of New York City’s most influential cultural figures, David and Annabelle Prager lived their lives in service of the arts. Married for thirty-eight years, they were passionate connoisseurs, devoted patrons and visionary advocates, who believed that creativity was the key to a better and fairer society. Annabelle founded the pioneering InterSchool Orchestras of New York, creating unparalleled musical opportunities for children from all walks of life. David was a lawyer who, throughout his career, fought to preserve some of Manhattan’s most important architectural landmarks. United by their shared love of artists and composers, they championed imaginative thinking and intellectual curiosity; in their professional lives, they translated these instincts into powerful social action. The Pragers’ combined legacies had a transformative impact on multiple generations of New York citizens, demonstrating that support of the arts has the power to change the world around us.

One of the most innovative artist’s of his generation, Calder was one of the few artists who can correctly claim to have redefined a genre. Uprooted Whip provides early evidence of Calder’s innovative style, liberating sculpture from its static traditions and infusing it with chromatic richness. Creating an object of extreme grace and elegance out of solidity of metal is a clear demonstration of both his aesthetic vision and engineering prowess. Powerful yet graceful, and colorful yet elegant, and with the sophisticated proportions that ensures it always controls the space it inhabits, Uprooted Whip is pure Calder. But ultimately this work is a reflection of the joy Calder found in his art and the happiness it gave others, as he once commented, "When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises" (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 261).

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