With remarkable facility and ingenuity Alexander Calder forged a revolutionary genre of sculpture that made subjects of shape and movement themselves. By traversing the boundaries of artistic precedent Calder's groundbreaking work required a new descriptive lexicon, and as early as 1931 Marcel Duchamp christened Calder's early mechanized wire works as 'mobiles', while some time later Jean Arp coined the term 'stabiles' for his stationary sculptures. Having reveled in the challenges of harmonizing sculptural design within technical parameters and won the Grand Prize in sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1952 for his innovative and ingenious use of sheet metal, Calder was forever consumed by the possibilities of three-dimensional movement through the mobile format. By the 1960s, the sheer range of his ingenious works was astounding and while Calder’s mobiles became ubiquitous in any survey show of twentieth century sculpture, they are always unique and surprising to behold.
Untitled, 1963 was for many years in the collection of famed designer, Liz Claiborne, who would have an innate appreciation for the clarity of design and integrity of execution in this splendid mobile. Liz Claiborne grew up in both Brussels, where she was born in 1929, and in Louisiana, where her family were direct descendants of the first governor of the state. Her father was a banker who loved painting and architecture and her mother was a talented seamstress; both the world of fine art and fashion design would figure prominently in their daughter’s life. As a teenager in Brussels, Claiborne studied at a painter’s studio to become an artist, rather than attending high school. In 1949, after her family returned to Louisiana, she won the national design contest sponsored by Harper’s Bazaar which invited submissions of sketches and designs to be judged for their creative originality. The grand prize was a trip to Paris where Claiborne spent the next year studying at the Academy of Art in the south of France, where one of her most vivid memories was a painting trip to the countryside where her teacher announced, " Now, I'm going to teach you how to see." Although her father would have preferred that Claiborne pursue a career in the fine arts, she instead chose the career of fashion designer in New York City. Years later, inspired to correct the lack of stylish clothes for working women, Liz Claiborne launched her own business in 1976 which met with immediate success. By 1986, she became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company and for a decade Liz Claiborne Inc. ran second only to Microsoft for return on investment.
Over the years, as Liz Claiborne Inc. became synonymous with American women’s upscale sportswear, Claiborne befriended creative people such as the famed photographers Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus, as well as the acclaimed artist and Andy Warhol collaborator, Paul Thek. She herself was a dedicated and talented photographer. In 2001 her husband and business partner Art Ortenberg gave her the present work by Calder that hung in their apartment overlooking Central Park. Known as a fashion icon, Claiborne was an artist first and foremost, and perhaps the rich color and whimsical configuration of the present mobile reminded her of that.
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