Lot 137
  • 137

Alexander Calder

600,000 - 800,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alexander Calder
  • Gunstock
  • incised with the artist's monogram and date 73 on the base
  • painted metal and wire
  • 24 3/4 by 39 1/2 by 11 in. 62.9 by 100.3 by 27.9 cm.


M. Knoedler & Co. Inc., New York
Suzanne Hillbery Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan (acquired from the above in 1979)
James Goodman Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in 1980)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1981


New York, M. Knoedler & Co. Inc., Alexander Calder: Sculpture of the 1970's, October - November 1978, p. 7, illustrated in color


Maurice Bruzeau, Calder à Sache, Paris 1975, p. 29, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., Paris, Brame et Lorenceau, Calder Gouaches, 2008, p. 19, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1973, Gunstock is a playful yet powerful incarnation of Calder’s renowned creation—the stabile. As Calder himself noted, “When everything goes right, a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprise” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., O’ Hara Gallery, Motion-Emotion: The Art of Alexander Calder, 1999, p. 4)—a description certainly substantiated by the present work. Here Calder imbues the stabile with a mobile-like whimsicality, seven boldly colored shapes radiate outward in one direction, all connected by a bright red wire. These are balanced on the other side by a single bright blue piece whose abstract shape, reminiscent of the back end of a gun, lends the piece its name. 

Tying the work together and bringing these disparate shapes to life is the sculpture’s ability to move. This simple potential for motion is the invisible ingredient that distinguishes much of Calder's work from traditional sculpture and lends it a primal thrill. Motion is not a suggestion or illusion as in painting or sculpture, but an observable reality of the work. Requiring only a small breeze to be set in motion, the works do not simply exist in their environment, but actually interact with it. As written by Jean Paul Sartre, “His mobiles signify nothing, refer to nothing but themselves: they are, that is all; they are absolutes…Calder establishes a general destiny of motion for each mobile, then he leaves it on its own. It is the time of day, the sun, the heat, the wind which calls each individual dance…If you have missed it, you have missed it forever” (Jean Paul Sartre, ‘Existentialist on Mobilist,’ Art News, No. 46, December 1947, pp. 22-23).

Both an artist and an artisan, Calder manifests his incomparable genius through engineering so precise that his forms seem weightless. The boldness and energy in his shapes and colors distracts from the heaviness of the material, imbuing the works with a sense of freedom from the confines of their physicality. In Gunstock, Calder’s unique understanding of the world around him combines with his creativity to create a work that is not only a joy to simply view, but also to experience in three dimensions.