Lot 33
  • 33

Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005)

700,000 - 900,000 USD
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  • La Scie a Metaux (The Hacksaw)
  • paint, plaster and metal on isorel hardboard
  • 39 1/2 by 39 1/2 by 5 5/8 in.
  • 100.3 by 100.3 by 14.3 cm
  • Executed in 1960.


Hans Neumann, Caracas
Private Collection, Caracas


Le Havre, Nouveau Musée, January 27-March 11, 1968; Louviers, Musée de Louviers, March 30-May 20, 1968; Sable- d'Olonne, Musée Municipale des Sable- d'Olonne, June 9-September 15, 1968, Art cinétique et espace, no. 16
Paris, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Jesús Rafael Soto, January 7- March 9, 1997, p. 89, illustrated in color


Alfredo Boulton, Soto, Caracas, 1973, p. 77, illustrated


The panel is in good condition considering its age. The highly textured painted surface is tightly bound. It displays a deliberately matte and gloss surface sheen. A 1 3/8” diagonal crack can be seen on the bottom PR corner. The break is stable but visible. The metal saw has an aged surface with no active corrosion evident. The saw is well secured to the panel. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Wilson Conservation.)
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

In a conversation with critic Ariel Jiménez , Soto explained  that [in the early 1960’s] he was “taking the most insignificant but strongly formal objects – old wood, wire, needles, gratings, pipes – to integrating them into the work and bring them into a state of disintegration through pure vibration” (1).  In the catalogue of the exhibition SOTO, Paris and Beyond, 1950 - 1970 at Grey Gallery, New York,  Curator Estrellita Brodsky further noted  “[Soto] used construction materials to dismantle the pictorial composition into an aggregation of destabilized optical and sensory effects [...] the material suggests a chaotic archeological site” (2).

Shortly after his methodical “progressions” and his multi planar, neatly composed optic and kinetic experiments with Plexiglas, pure geometry and plain color, Soto started experimenting with informal materials and surfaces.

It is an interesting exercise to look at this seminal work of the so called baroque period, The Hacksaw, 1960, formerly in the prestigious collection of industrialist Hans Neumann in Caracas with the quoted Soto´s phrase in mind: the thin hacksaw, an industrial instrument, is attached with screws and bolts several inches in front of the striped informal back. The background looks like a miniature lava deposit whose flow has been contained by a roughly bent squared metal wire attached to the back with seven fine metal staples much in the manner of the drawn inner frame of his later composition A Souvenir to my friend Yves [Klein], 1961, also exhibited at the Grey Gallery. In front of such an infertile surface the eye focuses immediately on about six dozen parallel white lines. The rigorous, hence rational character of the lines is broken by multiple peaks and valleys which make the tortured landscape more visible. The visual vibration created by the saw against the backdrop of lines confirms the success of Soto’s predicament: the pure vibration has disintegrated a vertical portion of the visual field. The phenomenon is further enhanced by the interruptions introduced by the triangular saw tooth endings.

Brodsky reminds us how close Soto was in those years to the ideas of the Nouveaux Réalistes, in particular to Yves Klein: “Soto embraced the ideas of Klein and others who were attempting to connect with a new public through an art of “daily life” (3). By positioning an object of daily life, moreover a tool with a cutting function against a backdrop of what could be perceived essentially as a dirty corner of an abandoned steel mill, Soto performed a double trick: he turned the saw into a magic stick and he made disappear part of the [industrial] archeological site intuited by the author. It is not a coincidence that in France, where he resided, this particular quality of his work came to be known as Soto-Magie.

(1)   Jesús Soto in conversation with Ariel Jiménez, Colección Cisneros Ed. 2012, p. 169

(2,3) Brodsky, Estrellita, Soto , Paris and Beyond 1950-1970, Grey Art Gallery, NYU, 2012, p. 31