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

Disques Verticales

Disques Verticales
hanging mobile—sheet metal, wire and paint
40 x 43 in. (101.6 x 109.2 cm.)
Executed circa 1948
Private collection, Brazil, acquired directly from the artist.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 9 November 1983, lot 51.
Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 17 May 2000, lot 38.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
Rio de Janeiro, Ministério Educação e Saúde and São Paulo, Museo de Arte, Alexander Calder, September-November 1948.
Special notice
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Further details
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A13646.

Brought to you by

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

Lot Essay

Over the course of his distinguished career, Alexander Calder successfully challenged the boundaries of sculpture, becoming known for his hanging mobiles which transcended convention to capture a fourth dimension: movement. Incorporating the essential elements of Calder’s most sought after multicolored works, Disques Verticales is a consummate early example of this groundbreaking practice. Created during a pivotal stretch of the artist’s career, the work was exhibited in an important solo show of Calder’s work at the Museu d’Arte de São Paulo in 1948.

Suspended from a lone metal wire, twenty elements of varying sizes and colors comprise this dynamic work. Here, Calder fashioned sheet metal into discs, which the artist regarded as the cornerstone of his practice, stating “The basis of everything for me is the Universe. The simplest forms in the Universe are the sphere and the circle. I represent them by discs and then I vary them” (A. Calder quoted in J. Lipman, Calder’s Universe, exh. cat. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1976, p. 18). Through his use of elements large and small, Calder achieves a balance that is deeply rooted in nature; “From the beginning of my abstract work… I felt there was no better model for me to choose than the Universe…. Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space, traversing clouds, sprays of water, currents of air, viscosities and odors—of the greatest variety and disparity” (Ibid, p. 18). Calder further acknowledges this idea and recognizes the influence of Piet Mondrian’s Neo-Plasticist works on the colors of his mobiles remarking “it was more or less directly as a result of my visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930, and the sight of all his rectangles of color deployed on the wall, that my first work in the abstract was based off the concept of stellar relationships” (A. Calder, “A Propos of Measuring a Mobile,” Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start, exh. cat, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2021, p. 40). Indeed, all of the colors that Calder uses in this example are present in Mondrian’s iconic geometric works. Calder communicates these ideas through the harmonious movement of Disques Verticales' sculptural elements, expanding the bounds of his chosen medium, all while deftly encapsulating these concepts in a domestic scale.

1948, the year of this example’s creation, saw the continued recognition of Calder’s innovations on the world stage. The present work was exhibited in the aforementioned São Paulo show, alongside various examples of the artist’s paintings, hanging mobiles, stabiles and jewelry, demonstrating the astonishing breadth of his oeuvre. In the midst of Calder’s first postwar trips abroad, his works were featured in numerous critically acclaimed exhibitions, as well as a display of Peggy Guggenheim’s collection, which exhibited concurrently with the XXIV Venice Biennale, the first postwar edition of the show. Just four years later, in 1952, Calder represented the United States at the XXVI Venice Biennale, where he won the Grand Prize for sculpture.

In his seminal essay on Calder’s mobiles, Jean-Paul Sartre noted that the artist “captures true, living movements and crafts them into something” (J. Sartre, “Les Mobiles de Calder,” Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, exh. cat. Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, 1946, English translation by Chris Turner, np). In truth, Calder is uniquely capable of harnessing colors and shapes to communicate his fascination with the natural world. Disques Verticales is a quintessential example of this practice, balancing material simplicity with compositional complexity to render what Sartre so succinctly called “a little local ‘fiesta’” (ibid, np).

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