Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
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Property from the Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)


Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
hanging mobile—sheet metal, wire and paint
53 3/4 x 147 1/2 x 94 in. (136.5 x 374.7 x 238.8 cm.)
Executed in 1949.
Burgess Meredith, Mount Kisco, commissioned from the artist
Stanley Moss & Co., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1971
W. Gibbs, "Theatre Review," The New Yorker, 14 January 1950, pp. 48-49.
J. J. Sweeney, Alexander Calder, New York, 1951, p. 75.
J. J. Sweeney, Alexander Calder: Sculpture, Mobiles, London, 1962, p. 29.
J. Fricker, Calder, Paris, 1965, p. 30.
H. H. Arnason, Calder, London, 1971, p. 84.
M. Besset, Alexander Calder, Zurich, 1975. p. 30.
P. D. Meltzer, "Reunited at Last: Burgess Meredith Rediscovers an Old Stage Set—Made for Him by Alexander Calder over Thirty Years Ago," Art and Auction, vol. 9, January 1987, pp. 16-18.
D. A. Ross et al., Celebrating Modern Art: Highlights from the Anderson Collection, San Francisco, 2000, p. 11 (installation view illustrated).
P. Rowlands, "Double Feature," Art News, vol. 99, no. 10, November 2000, pp. 179-179 (installation view illustrated in color).
G. Allen et al., A Family Affair: Modern and Contemporary American Art from the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, New York, 2014, pp. 42-43 (installation view illustrated in color).
Oakland Museum, A Salute to Alexander Calder, November-December 1972.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection, October 2000-January 2001, pp. 29, 282-283 and 356, fig. 15, pl. 165, no. 36 (illustrated in color and installation view illustrated in color).

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A01781.

The Anderson Collection stands as one of America’s most legendary assemblages of Post-War and Contemporary art, a peerless collection demonstrating over half a century of scholarship and dedication by Harry “Hunk” and Mary “Moo” Anderson. The collection has come to encompass the very best in creative expression across an array of categories, providing a stimulating intellectual outlet for not only the Anderson family, but also the countless students, scholars and museum-goers that have benefitted from the Andersons’ profound generosity.

Hunk and Moo met as students in the late 1940s, when Hunk, an army veteran, enrolled at Hobart College under the G.I. Bill. In 1948, Hunk and his friends Bill Laughlin and William Scandling assumed the operation of Hobart’s dining hall, instituting an inventive method of selling advance meal tickets that would become an industry standard in later years. After Hunk graduated with a degree in History and Economics in 1949, he, Laughlin and Scandling incorporated and renamed their business Saga Corporation. The business relocated in 1962 from Geneva, New York to Menlo Park, California, and by the time it was sold in 1986, had revolutionized food service nationwide, spearheading state-of-the-art IT and management technologies.

The extraordinary collection for which the Andersons are celebrated was, in truth, born by chance, during a fortuitous 1964 trip to the Louvre Museum. “Something came over us in the Louvre,” Hunk later recalled. “We felt for the first time the beauty and excitement of the world of art and had to be a part of it.” Upon their return from Paris, the Andersons discussed putting together a collection of world-class art, and they agreed to acquire Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Among their first purchases were pictures by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Picasso. They quickly realized, however, the difficulty in obtaining a choice collection of nineteenth century European art. It was not until Moo took another trip — this time to New York, in 1968 — that the couple’s collection began to turn in a particular direction, led by the purchase of Richard Diebenkorn’s bound portfolio 41 Etchings Drypoints. “[The Diebenkorn works] changed the focus of our collecting,” Hunk later recalled, and solidified the couple’s fascination with American Contemporary art.

In turning to the art of their own time, Hunk and Moo Anderson found a wealth of groundbreaking, informed work, often by living artists. They sought out the best examples in periods and styles, from leading figures such as Adolph Gottlieb, Clyfford Still, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning to California artists such as David Park, Jay DeFeo, Wayne Thiebaud and John Altoon. As Hilarie M. Sheets wrote, “Balancing New York School artists with their West Coast contemporaries appealed to the Andersons as it reflected their own move from New York.” So, too, did collecting across categories of media; from paintings and sculptures to works on paper and prints, they embraced it all. The full range of media at play affords the Anderson Collection a nuanced, ‘layered’ aesthetic that remains rare amongst even the finest assemblages. It was “quality, quality, quality” that guided the Andersons, but equally, a desire to capture artists at their very essence, showcasing the highest levels of ingenuity and craftsmanship. “We are very much self-taught,” Hunk mused, “but passions cannot be denied.”

Like other great collectors, Hunk and Moo Anderson always believed that they were merely “custodians” of a body of work that belonged to the world. To this end, they offered not only private tours of their home to view the collection, but also extraordinary bequests to museums and cultural institutions. As Moo has stated, “To enjoy art, I feel you must share it.” Following the 1972 donation of Jasper Johns’s Land’s End and Robert Rauschenberg’s Collection to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the Andersons gifted a group of Pop Art masterpieces and seven important pictures by Frank Stella throughout the 1990s. In 2000, SFMOMA served as the site for Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection, a retrospective honoring Hunk and Moo Anderson’s life in collecting, which marked the largest exhibition in the institution’s history. “Probably no private collection,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle critic Kenneth Baker, “illustrates the course of American art since World War II better than that of […] Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson.” Along with their bequests to SFMOMA, the Andersons gifted works from their collection in the late 1990s to the Oakland Museum and San Jose Museum of Modern Art, as well as nearly 700 master prints to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

In 2011, Hunk and Moo made headlines when they donated 121 masterworks — anchored in the work of the New York School — to Stanford University. This marked one of the most significant donations of fine art in American history and included works by leading artists such as Pollock, Rothko, Still, Kline, Thiebaud, Diebenkorn, Frankenthaler, and Celmins. The works have been housed in a purpose-built permanent building on Stanford’s campus since 2014. “It’s good to study art in books,” Hunk Anderson said of the Stanford bequest, “but something happens in the presence of the original—it affects the brain, taste, feelings, and more.”

The depth and quality of the Anderson Collection is a testament to not only Hunk and Moo Anderson’s curatorial vision, but also the power of art in changing lives. A visit to the Louvre sparked an unexpected and heartfelt journey in collecting, the results of which are still celebrated across the United States and beyond. “Each painting has been an event in our lives,” Hunk Anderson remembered, “and luckily they’ve always been happy events.” Indeed, the spirit and joy of Hunk and Moo lives on in each work within the Anderson Collection, a tangible legacy that continues to inspire.

Widely regarded as one of the most innovative sculptors of the 20th century, Alexander Calder’s finely-honed aesthetic and unwavering finesse transformed unassuming elements of metal and wire into a dynamic and graceful arrangement delicate steel petals. Executed in 1949, Untitled is an exquisite example of his mature mobiles, and sets the stage for larger constructions that would follow. This work also plays an essential role in illustrating Calder’s career-long interest in the crossover between performance and sculpture. Although his stationary stabiles rely on the evocation of motion through form, mobiles such as this are never truly at rest. “Why must art be static?” Calder famously inquired, “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). This insistence on the need for movement in sculpture inspired countless future artists and cemented Calder as a leader of the 20th century avant-garde.

Suspended from the ceiling, the monochromatic assemblage of biomorphic forms tingles with energy like a handful of leaves caught in an updraft or a grouping of strange birds in the distance. From one side, a pair of black forms rotate around themselves in a delicate dance. On the other side, several discrete units extend in ever-smaller sizes. The support, a congregation of delicately worked lengths of wire, is connected at very specific points to maintain the composition in three dimensions. This precision is a trademark of Calder’s constructions, and keeps their otherwise haphazard arrangements in a state of potent equilibrium. Coaxing a meditative order out of chaotic movement, Untitled exists in parallel with its environment. Each breath, breeze, and gust sends its myriad parts into a slow frenzy of internalized motion.

Untitled marks Calder’s continued interest in the realm of stage design. Working with director Burgess Meredith to construct sets for the play Happy as Larry, Calder relied on his innate sense of balance and interest in simple but bold forms, the artist went on to create a number of pieces for the stage. Untitled is a prime example of Calder’s collaborative output during this era, and exists in tandem with other mobile sets that the artist produced for Erik Satie’s drama Socrate in 1936 and Martha Graham’s ballets. The idea of performance alongside Calder’s sculptures creates a vibrant dichotomy of movement and energetic symbiosis. Consistently on the verge of rest or motion, the mobiles are full of the same kinetic energy that courses through actors on a stage. The audience, waiting to see what happens next, is enraptured by the slightest move or action that might push the narrative along. Mobiles like Untitled function in a similar way. Speaking to this effect, Jean-Paul Sartre noted, “These hesitations and resumptions, gropings and fumblings, sudden decisions and, most especially, marvellous swan-like nobility make Calder’s mobiles strange creatures, mid-way between matter and life. At times their movements seem to have a purpose and at times they seem to have lost their train of thought along the way and lapsed into a silly swaying. My bird flies, floats, swims like a swan, like a frigate. It is one, one single bird. And then, suddenly, it breaks apart and all that remain are rods of metal traversed by futile little tremors” (J. Sartre, “Les Mobiles des Calder,” in Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, exh. cat., Galerie Louis Carre, Paris, 1946, pp. 6-19, English translation by Chris Turner). Never completely frozen in the air, Calder’s mobiles are constantly shifting on their axes and floating lazily from their central anchor in the ceiling.

Born in 1898 in Philadelphia, Calder was quick to insert himself in the international art world. Studying at the Art Students League in the early 1920s, he visited Paris in 1926 where he was introduced to Marcel Duchamp and Jean Arp. Splitting his time between Europe and New York, the artist’s work represents a convergence of American boldness and some of the Surrealist tendencies prevalent in Parisian art of the day. Calder began to reimagine approaches to collage and line as small animals made from wire and wood. Translating the flat surface into three dimensions, some of these early sculptures became part of Cirque Calder (1926-1931), which is now held by the Whitney Museum of American Art. Using the objects as part of performances, Calder attracted the attention of the Parisian avant-garde, including Duchamp who in 1931 coined the phrase "mobiles" to refer to Calder's moving abstract objects. Through these art world connections, Calder was able to visit the studio of Piet Mondrian in 1930, and this watershed moment cemented the younger artist’s interest in abstraction. He reminisced, “I was very much moved by Mondrian’s studio, large, beautiful and irregular in shape as it was… I thought at the time how fine it would be if everything there moved…” (A. Calder, quoted in H. Greenfeld, The Essential Alexander Calder, New York, 2003, p. 57). Eschewing his previously representative works in favor of the more linear aspects of nonrepresentational abstraction, Calder set the stage for his mature works in the late 1940s onward. Untitled is especially illustrative of the artist’s stark color palette and ability to create cohesive units out of groups of amorphous, organic shapes.

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