Naum Gabo (1890-1977)
Beyond Boundaries: Avant-Garde Masterworks from a European Collection
Naum Gabo (1890-1977)

Construction in Space with Balance on Two Points

Naum Gabo (1890-1977)
Construction in Space with Balance on Two Points
Height: 11 3/8 in. (29.1 cm.)
Length: 13 ¼ in. (33.7 cm.)
Executed in 1936-1946; unique
Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Reis, New York (acquired from the artist, by 1957).
Harold Diamond, New York (circa 1978).
Galerie Tarica, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, circa 1978.
H. Read and L. Martin, intro., Gabo, Constructions, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, Cambridge, 1957, p. 183 (illustrated, pl. 36; dated 1925).
C. Sanderson and C. Lodder, Naum Gabo Sixty Years of Construction Including Catalogue Raisonné of the Constructions and Sculptures, Dallas, 1985, p. 213, no. 22.5 (illustrated).
J. Prosyniuk, ed., Modern Arts Criticism, Detroit, 1992, vol. 2, pp. 240-241, 243 and 249 (dated 1924-1925).
Washington DC, Institute of Contemporary Arts, October-November 1948.
Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Skulptur, July-November 1977, p. 118 (illustrated; dated 1925).
Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, ParisBerlin, rapports et contrastes, FranceAllemagne, 1900-1933, July-November 1978, p. 5, no. 116 (illustrated, p. 229; dated 1925).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Planar Dimension, Europe, 1912-1932, March-May 1979, p. 141, no. 102 (illustrated; dated 1960 and with incorrect medium).
Moscow, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, MoskvaParizh, 1900-1930, June-October 1981, vol. 1, p. 312 (illustrated, vol. 2).
Sale room notice
Please note that the present lot was included in the following exhibition:
Washington DC, Institute of Contemporary Arts, October-November 1948.

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

We thank Graham and Nina Williams for their help cataloguing this work.

First conceived in 1924-1925, Construction in Space with Balance on Two Points perfectly embodies Gabo's Constructivist ethos. There is no figurative content, but instead a celebration of material, light, time and space. Here, Gabo has successfully reduced the properties of modern scientific and technological form to its abstract essence, and achieves a free interaction of matter and space. Eric Gibson stated, “Points engages with space in a manner quite different from any sculpture before it. It goes beyond a simple physical involvement with space in the manner of Picasso and Tatlin and enters a realm in which it is no longer clear where matter ends and space begins. Points seems at once to contain space and to be constructed from it, even to move through it while remaining at rest” (J. Prosyniuk, ed., op. cit., p. 240).
As with many of Gabo’s most successful compositions, this elegant, complex construction was executed in various sizes and materials over the course of fifty years. Of the seven versions of Construction in Space with Balance on Two Points listed in the catalogue raisonné of Gabo's works, most are unique variations rather than reconstructions, varying in scale and appearance. A number are also in museums, including the Yale University Art Gallery and the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University.
Referring to the present lot, Stephen Nash and Jörn Merkert note that, “This version is distinct from the others because the upper pair of slanting white sheets each join the black angled pieces at the ends rather than at the angles, and there are no cross-pieces between the quarter-annulars at the base” (op. cit., p. 213).
Gabo considered Construction in Space with Balance on Two Points one of his masterpieces and the work was given various titles over the years, including, Raum-Konstruktion, schwebend, Construction on Two Points and Two Circles. In their outstanding book on Gabo’s life and work, Martin Hammer and Christina Lodder observe: “The most striking quality of the sculpture is its apparent denial of gravity and structural support. As the title implies, the entire construction is balanced on just two points at its base, to either side of the central vertical axis. Immediately above, the cube which is implied by the four rectangular planes appears to hover in space, while its 45° orientation suggests the possibility of rotation. In this respect, Balance on Two Points recalls monumental machines such as dynamos, where a moving component is suspended within a rigid structure…Moving around the sculpture, the viewer is presented with a constantly shifting interplay of solid and void, stasis and movement, opacity and transparency, black and white. From all angles, these oppositions seem to be held in poised equilibrium. Yet there is no viewpoint from which the sculpture is completely symmetrical, despite the geometric regularity of the elements and the recurrent pairing of forms” (Constructing Modernity, The Art & Career of Naum Gabo, New Haven, 2000, p. 129).

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