Naum Gabo (1890-1977)
Naum Gabo (1890-1977)

Maquette for the Bijenkorf Construction

Naum Gabo (1890-1977)
Maquette for the Bijenkorf Construction
a wooden, steel and plexiglass construction
26 cm. high (including the wooden base)
Executed circa 1954
A gift from the artist to N.H. Benninga, Laren, circa 1954.
Anon. sale, Christie's Amsterdam, 26 May 1993, lot 300.
Acquired at the above sale by Piet and Ida Sanders, Schiedam.
H. Read, Gabo, Constructions, Sculptures, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, London 1957, p. 184, no. 98-99 (another model illustrated).
S. Nash and J. Merkert, Naum Gabo: Sixty Years of Constructivism:
Including Catalogue Raisonné of the Constructions and Sculptures
, Munich 1985, no. 67.3, p. 244.
Anonymous, 'Gabo-marquette ter veiling', in: Rotterdams Dagblad, 25 May 1993 (illustrated).
P. Sanders, Herinneringen, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 116 (illustrated).
Schiedam, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Collectie Piet en Ida Sanders. Leven met kunst, 30 June-21 October 2012.

Brought to you by

Alexandra Bots
Alexandra Bots

Lot Essay

Maquette for the Bijenkorf Construction is a scale model by Naum Gabo of one of his most famous and iconic large-scale projects, a sculpture from the mid-1950s which is still a landmark in the city of Rotterdam. A Constructivist beacon towering above its surroundings, it allowed Gabo the rare opportunity to fuse architecture and art during the reconstruction of Rotterdam, which had suffered widespread damage during the Second World War. Prominent architects and artists alike were working to create a new urban environment at that time. One of the key buildings was the Bijenkorp department store, designed by Marcel Breuer. In collaboration with Breuer, Gabo worked on a couple of ideas for a monumental art-work to grace the department store, originally suggesting a linear mural composition. Breuer and Gabo were then given permission for a free-standing sculpture, for which Maquette for the Bijenkorf Construction is a model. The finished work stands around 25 metres tall - this is therefore a 1:100 scale model.

Gabo created only a handful of models for the Bijenkorf Construction, including a smaller piece demonstrating the wave-forms of the outer composition and a larger maquette created by a professional according to the artist's own designs. One of Gabo's own models, on the same scale as this work, is now in Tate, London; in that version, some of the sculptural elements from the centre of the composition are not included, whereas Maquette for the Bijenkorf Construction is closer to the finished result. This example was in fact given by the artist to N.H. Benninga, one of the Bijenkorf board-members, by the artist. Maquette for the Bijenkorf Construction is therefore an extremely rare testament to the highpoint of Gabo's career, when he was being approached increasingly to create large-scale works in which he was able to unite his art with the architecture being raised around it.

Gabo's idea for the Bijenkorf Construction was based in part on an earlier large-scale project he had planned, his Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner of 1952. Both of these works emerged from the context of the war, commemorating loss but crucially also harnessing a new optimism. This is evident in the soaring, turning struts that rise up the sides, creating a sense of movement and exultation that speaks of humanity's enduring ability to rise once again: the Bijenkorf Construction, and this maquette alike, are celebratory, perfectly demonstrating Gabo's faith in humanity's power of endurance.

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