Lot 18
  • 18

Alexander Calder

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
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  • Alexander Calder
  • Tres Puntos Blancos sobre Rojo, Amarillo y Azul
  • sheet metal, brass, wire and paint
  • 22.9 by 33 by 14cm.; 9 by 13 by 5 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 1955.


Alejandro Otero, Caracas (acquired from the artist in 1955)

Private Collection

Sale: Christie’s, Los Angeles, Twentieth Century and Contemporary Art, 14 October 1998, Lot 15

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Exposición Calder, 1955, n.p., no. 48

Caracas, Fundación Eugenio Mendoza, Calder en Venezuela, 1969, p. 45, no. 35, illustrated 


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate Condition: This work is in very good condition. There are minor losses in places to the outer edges, which are consistent with age. There are specks of oxidation in places to the blue leg. Further examination reveals minor discolouration to the largest white disc. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Tres Puntos Blancos sobre Rojo, Amarillo y Azul (Three White Dots on Red, Yellow and Blue) is a charming example of Alexander Calder’s inimitable style. Through the delicate yet muscular pyramidal base, and the simple elegant mobile this work explores balance and movement through the medium of hand-wrought metal. By 1955, Calder was in the prime of his career and this work shows all the fluency and dynamism that saw the artist win the grand prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale only two years previously.

Although it was Marcel Duchamp who originally coined the term ‘mobiles’ in 1931, Calder took his chief inspiration from the work of Piet Mondrian, whose work he had become familiar with on a studio visit in 1930. He was drawn to the bold blocks of colour, the blank white spaces, and the punctuating linear cords that linked them. Calder assimilated these elements and reimagined them in three dimensional structures that could move of their own accord. In the present work red, yellow, and blue combine in the base, orbited by roundels of white, linked, as with Mondrian, by thick dark cords.

The overwhelming mood of Tres Puntos Blancos sobre Rojo, Amarillo y Azul is one of balance and counterpoint. This sense is obviously rooted in the structure of the mobile itself, which pivots around the most delicate of points, but continues throughout the work. We might examine the difference between the tightly wound wire coil and the thin elongated arc opposite, or the planar solidity of the base paired with the linear articulations of the wire. When each element is examined at close quarters, the piece seems artisanal, even craftsmanlike: thick rivets bolt the base together, while deftly twisted hinges allow the mobile to swing and balance unaided. It is tribute to Calder’s skill that, when considering the piece as a whole, these individual elements of metal craftsmanship merge and mesh into an overall impression of equilibrium, poetry, and grace.

Calder took huge inspiration from nature. He ensured that his studios in Roxbury, Connecticut and Saché in France were set amidst fecund oases of flora and fauna that could provide constant stimuli. The present work seems to approximate a bird: the base appearing as a jutting pair of blue and yellow legs and a long red body, while the mobile above seeming an elegant plumage. Even if the artist eschewed this sort of direct representation, the work is suffused by a sense of natural dynamism.

Tres Puntos Blancos sobre Rojo, Amarillo y Azul displays all the characteristics that have made Calder’s style so widely loved and critically lauded. Executed in the most productive and innovative decade of the artist’s career, the work balances a bravura level of visual fluency with exact precise craftsmanship and structural integrity. It is a piece in perfect equilibrium from the unshakable solidity of the tri-pronged base to the delicate outstretched pinnacle disc.