Lot 104
  • 104

Alexander Calder

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
2,629,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alexander Calder
  • Untitled
  • incised I, II and III respectively on the black elements
  • painted metal and wire
  • 45 1/2 by 36 by 14 in. 115.6 by 91.4 by 35.6 cm.
  • Executed circa 1940, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A08723.


Jean and Jean Blair Hélion, Paris and Rockbridge Baths, Virginia (gift of the artist circa 1940)
Private Collection, Virginia (by descent from the above in 1945)
Gift to the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

Inspired by the atmosphere in Mondrian’s studio and through the innovative, unconventional use of materials, Calder conceived works that could activate their environment with unpredictable entities such as sound, movement, chance, and anticipation. Taking his experimentation with movement one step further, Calder made percussive pieces that when set into motion clang, conjuring into space not a tangible representation of an object, but the disquieting experience of sound and anticipation.

Calder first experimented with sound-making sculpture in the early 1930s, creating works of non-traditional materials, where cymbals, glass bottles and tin cans reverberated with sound when set into dynamic motion. It can be seen from a photograph of Calder’s studio in 1933 the variety of sound making objects with which he was working: tins cans, gongs and standing mobiles with bell shaped elements. In the foreground of this image are five tin cans suspended from a string for which Calder wrote, revealing his ever whimsical, humorous persona:

this was the “music” – Varèse
liked ballet (but not “music”)
I called it “A Merry Can

The present work, Untitled, circa 1940 is a culmination of this ten year experimentation with sound, a fully realized, large scale standing mobile which in addition to its balance and movement collides to make “music”, a cacophony of sound, movement and color. 

Calder’s legacy with music and sound-making sculptures continued throughout the following decades of his career. The 1950s and 1960s, brought the creation of the elaborate, large scale Gong mobiles which included small metallic hammers that strike the metal plates at random when the mobile moves, further focusing on this aural dimension.