Lot 5
  • 5

Naum Gabo

150,000 - 250,000 GBP
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  • Naum Gabo
  • Linear Construction in Space No.2
  • signed and dated 1954
  • perspex with nylon monofilament and insets
  • height: 38cm.; 15in.
  • Conceived in 1949 and executed in 1954, the present work is unique.


Acquired directly from the Artist by V.N. Buchanan, December 1954
Acquired from the above by Hanover Gallery, 1960, where acquired by Eugene and Penelope Rosenberg, 1962


Herbert Read & Leslie Martin, Gabo: Constructions, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, London, 1957, cat. no.86, illustrated pl.86 (another version);
Studio International, London, Vol.171, no.876, April 1966, illustrated on the cover;
Steven A. Nash & Jorn Merkert, Naum Gabo, Sixty Years of Constructivism, Including Catalogue Raisonné of the Constructions and Sculptures, Prestel-Verlag, Munich, 1985, cat. no.55.8, p.236;
Martin Hammer & Christina Lodder, Constructing Modernity, The Art and Career of Naum Gabo, New Haven, 2000, illustrated p.324 (another version);
Natalia Sidlina, Naum Gabo, Tate Publishing, London, 2012, illustrated pp.166-7 (another version).


Structurally sound. The work appears in excellent overall condition, suspended from a plastic wire from the roof the Perspex box. Housed in the Artist's Perspex box, set within a black base. Please contact the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"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

Despite holding a position as one of the leading voices in modernist sculpture in Britain in the middle part of the twentieth century, by the mid-1960s Gabo was still awaiting his first major large-scale commission in the United Kingdom. He had, since the 1920s, worked and prepared smaller maquettes and models for various projects, all of which had, for one reason or another, failed to materialise. In 1968, when Gabo was in his 78th year, this was all to change, when Sir Norman Reid, then director of the Tate, visited his studio to discuss the possibility of erecting a large scale version of Torsion, an idea Gabo had been developing from as early as 1925. Reid had secured the sponsorship of Alistair McAlpine, and when looking for a suitable architect to execute the plans, turned to Eugene Rosenberg, principal architect of Yorke Rosenberg Mardall. Known for his great enthusiasm for incorporating the work of contemporary artists and sculptors into architectural projects, Rosenberg was at the time working on the new building of St Thomas’ Hospital, London, situated directly across the River Thames from the Houses of Parliament, and thought this the perfect location for such a work. The fountain’s waterjets and slow-moving stainless steel planes serve to generate a calming, transfixing tranquility in the heart of the busy capital.

Rosenberg already had great admiration for Gabo's work, having acquired Linear Construction in Space No.2 some years earlier in 1962 and the St Thomas' commission developed a friendship that was to remain for the rest of the artist’s life (and indeed continued with his widow well after his death in 1977). As with earlier working models for the Torsion project, Linear Construction in Space No.2 is amongst the most celebrated sculptural ideas developed throughout the course of his career, and began as a theme developed for Gabo’s unrealised commission for the lobby of the Esso building in New York in the late 1940s. This, the artist’s first North American commission, was issued by Nelson Rockefeller, with the intention for two sculptures, similar to the present work, to be placed above two revolving lobby doors, rotating slowly. As with Torsion, movement was an integral part of the artist’s concept, writing of the project ‘I have seen the place and I think that the whole thing is a challenge to me.  I have the feeling that here is a case where I simply have to show what Constructive art can do in connection with architecture … to prove that the Constructive sculpture is not just a theory for heaven but a very real, aesthetic solution to our everyday life’ (the Artist, quoted in Martin Hammer & Christina Loder, Constructing Modernity, The Art and Career of Naum Gabo, Yale Publishing, New Haven, 2000, p.322). The commission was never to materialise, yet the project remained, according to Steven A. Nash, the Artist’s favourite work, and one which he returned to at various stages of his career, in total creating twenty six versions of the work, many of which are now housed in public collections across the globe, including Tate, London; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Rosenberg’s friendship with Gabo is outlined in the extensive series of letters between the two, discussing both the architectural commission for Revolving Torsion, Fountain, which to this day remains within the grounds of the hospital, and also the present work, with Gabo suggesting the loan of the work to various exhibitions. Linear Construction in Space No.2, which so beautifully captures Gabo’s fascination with materials and methods of construction, appealed greatly to Eugene and Penelope Rosenberg, and remained on view in pride of place in their living room. Just as the water and moving planes of Revolving Torsion, Fountain captured the light in different states, so too do the gently rotating components of the present work, as the light glides effortlessly along each delicate nylon thread, and on through the curvilinear Perspex framework.