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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection


standing mobile—sheet metal, wire and paint
22 1/2 x 34 x 5 in. (57.2 x 86.4 x 12.7 cm.)
Executed circa 1942
George H. Hamilton, New Haven (acquired directly from the artist, 1949).
Private collection, Vermont.
Private collection, New York (acquired from the above, 1999).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2000.
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 A18552.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Alexander Calder’s Untitled epitomizes the artist’s self-assured displays of color, form, and movement—three elements with which he revolutionized the genre of sculpture. The origins of this unique combination can be found in the artist’s formative years spent in Europe, yet it became a resolutely American art form and changed how the art world regarded sculpture. Executed a decade after Calder originally devised this “mobile” form, the present work displays the early promise of this new kinetic type of sculpture, and is one of the most elegant examples of Calder’s work from this pivotal period. It set the tone for both this new art form, and of Calder’s mastery of it, marking him out as one of the most innovative and forward thinking artists of his generation.
Supported on three elegantly turned legs, Calder engineers a complex arrangement of metal armatures which in turn support a series of counterbalanced colored discs. Suspended in mid-air, each circular form springs into life when it comes into contact with a breath of wind; while each moves independently, it also forms part of a graceful holistic arc that sweeps through 360°. Calder’s standing mobiles have been described as his “most spectacular creations from this period” (M. Prather, Alexander Calder, exh. cat, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, p. 141). When they were first exhibited at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York in 1941, Art News reported that it was the artist’s best show to date, while a reviewer for the New York Sun mused, “What niceties of balance and mechanical adjustment all this indicates leave the layman lost in wonder. For these mobiles have no motive power of their own. Yet the mere passing of a person through the room sets them in motion and weaves his slow or brusque movement into visible harmonies and suggestive as the strains of music” (quoted in ibid., p. 141).
Calder’s development of his iconic mobile form was indebted to a visit he made to the Paris studio of Piet Mondrian in October 1930. The American artist acknowledged that his “conversion” to abstraction was a result of this visit, which had been like “the baby being slapped to make his lungs start working” and giving him “the shock that converted me” (quoted in J. Perl, Calder. The Conquest of Time: The Early Years, 1898-1940, New York, 2017, p. 338). What struck him was not necessarily the paintings that he saw, but the light and the whiteness of the space, and Mondrian’s use of color, particularly black, red, and—of course—the white. After this visit, Calder recognized that abstract art could become something physical, something three-dimensional, and a wraparound experience.
The organic forms in the present work also have much in common with those of Calder’s close friend, the painter Joan Miró. The pair met in Paris in 1928 and Miró arguably became Calder’s greatest confidante from that time forward. Both were interested in bringing elements of spontaneity into their art, and both sought to depict elements from nature through the use of abstract forms. There are clear parallels between the work of the two artists as both Calder and Miró incorporate floating biomorphic forms which are connected by delicate black lines in their work. In the case of Miró, the forms float against atmospheric backgrounds, while in the case of Calder, they literally float in the air.
One of Calder’s most accomplished works from this period, Untitled is a prime example of the artistic form that would come to dominate the rest of his career. His innovative use of color, movement and organic forms infused new life into a genre that had—literally—been static for millennia. This work is the result of both Calder’s unfettered imagination and his unparalleled technical skill. His unique ability to produce works that contain both aesthetic and kinetic dynamism mark him out as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.

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