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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from a Private Collection, New York

The Moon and The Loop

The Moon and The Loop
incised with the artist's monogram 'CA' (on the largest red element)
sheet metal, wire and paint
46 x 57 in. (116.8 x 144.8 cm.)
Executed in 1953.
Perls Galleries, New York
Selden Rodman, Princeton
Weintraub Gallery, New York
Private collection, New York, 1967
By descent from the above to the present owner, 2013
P. E. Guerrero, A Photographer's Journey with Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder, and Louise Nevelson, New York, 2007, pp. 94-95 (illustrated).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Sixty Years of Living Architecture: The Work of Frank Lloyd Wright, October-December 1953.
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 A07327.

Brought to you by

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

Lot Essay

“Why must art be static? You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an intensely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect, but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion.” - Alexander Calder

Spread delicately to the wind, The Moon and The Loop epitomizes Alexander Calder’s trailblazing investigations into kinetic sculpture and the combination of surrealist and abstract tendencies in the twentieth century. Forged in the era between World War I and World War II, the artist’s practice absorbed the creative energy of the European avant-garde and channeled it back into a dynamic mixture of humble materials, natural forms, and new ideas about motion in art. Calder, finding the prevailing trends in art lacking, decided to take matters into his own hands, proclaiming, “Why must art be static? You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an intensely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect, but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion” (A. Calder, “Objects to Art Being Static, So He Keeps It in Motion,” New York World-Telegram, June 11, 1932). Realized at the peak of his intricate mobile production, The Moon and The Loop was completed the year before Calder and his family moved to Saché, France where the artist had established a new studio. Though born in Philadelphia, his formative connections to Europe would remain strong throughout his career and contribute to a truly unparalleled oeuvre.

Suspended from a single filament, the entire composition extends outward in a gentle blooming of red, yellow, and orange shapes that flutter in the air like petals falling from a tree. From the initial arc of wire, a large marigold triangle grows, its flat sheet metal surface punctuated by a stylized crescent and a small circle. Below this, a yellow element echoes the first but is lacking the moon-shaped space. From there, two upward-facing wire pillars extend into red shapes while following the line downward sees a branching of the entire affair into two discrete sections that cascade into groupings of red forms. Made from wire and painted sheet metal, Calder’s hanging works are deceptively simple in construction but become infinitely more than the sum of their parts due to his ability to coax lyrical balance and motion from base objects. “To most people who look at a mobile,” he explained in an interview, “it’s not more than a series of flat objects that move. To a few, though, it may be poetry. I feel there’s a greater scope for the imagination to work that can’t be pinpointed by any specific emotion. That is the limitation of representational sculpture. You’re often enclosed, stopped” (A. Calder, quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder: 1898-1976, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, pp. 282-283). Allowing the work to be seen from all sides and introducing elements of changeability and chance that he learned from the Surrealists, Calder made sure that no two viewings of The Moon and The Loop are the same.

In 1926, Calder began a lifelong dialogue with Paris and the creative individuals that lived and worked there. Falling into the avant-garde art world and becoming friends with artistic luminaries like Paul Klee and Joan Miró, the young artist was encouraged to push beyond traditional boundaries to explore new ideas of construction and creation. After visiting Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930, he was prompted to begin his investigation into pure abstraction which would ultimately lead to the realization of his groundbreaking kinetic mobiles. “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” (A. Calder quoted in J. Lipman, Calder’s Universe, exh. cat. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1976, p. 18). Calder recognized the inspirational spark that his visit to the Dutch artist’s studio had initiated, noting “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). This fascination with the cosmos and their vast potential spread throughout the artist’s work and expanded to include a joyous collection of allusions to natural effects and subjects like fish, flora, and the energy of life itself.

Calder’s first foray into the artistic milieu of Paris was as a performer. Using wood and wire, he constructed small animals that grew into a collection that he named Circus (1926-32, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). Operating these figures by hand, he enlivened the sculptures and connected to patrons and artists alike. As he progressed, Calder began using motors to power his sculptures, a practice that lent itself well to the first mobiles as he set them in perpetual motion through the air. The great French playwright and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre viewed these machinations as something beyond simple locomotion, instead noting that “These movements that intend only to please, to enchant our eyes, have nonetheless a profound and, as it were, metaphysical meaning. This is because the mobiles have to have some source of mobility. In the past, Calder drove them with an electric motor. Now he abandons them in the wild: in a garden, by an open window he lets them vibrate in the wind like Aeolian harps. They feed on the air, breathe it and take their life from the indistinct life of the atmosphere” (J. Sartre, “Les Mobiles des Calder”, in Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, exh. cat. Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, 1946, pp. 6-19, trans. C. Turner). Eschewing the motor in works like The Moon and The Loop, Calder instead embraced his Surrealist roots and gave into chance actions, chaos, and the unpredictable energy of people and objects moving through space.

“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.” - Alexander Calder

Truly a pioneer, Calder was the first American artist to be recognized internationally for his contributions to sculpture in the Surrealist mode. Bridging the Atlantic, his practice foretold and then assisted in the rise of cultural enclaves in New York and elsewhere as creative minds expatriated after the catastrophic events of World War II. Sculptures like The Moon and The Loop are extraordinary for their ability to combine the ideas touted by Parisian minds like the Surrealist ringleader André Breton with a focus on everyday materials and the bold abstraction that would come from American ingenuity in the mid-Twentieth Century. "Excluding every anecdotal element,” Breton explained, “Calder reduces the object to a few simple lines carving out elementary colors. This object, employing only the properties of movement—not represented movement but real movement—is miraculously brought to life in the most concrete shapes and restores to us the evolution of the celestial bodies, the rustling of foliage, the memory of caresses” (A. Breton, quoted in Tanguy, Calder: Between Surrealism and Abstraction, exh. cat., New York, L&M Arts, 2010, p. 152). By drawing inspiration from the world around him and then reducing and abstracting elements into three-dimensional compositions in steel set in motion, Calder encapsulated the vital energy of a generation as it expanded the realm of art into the next century.

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