Lot 49
  • 49

David Smith

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • David Smith
  • Forging II
  • Incised David Smith and dated 1955 and inscribed IND.II on the base
  • Stainless steel
  • 68 by 9 1/4 by 9 1/4 in.
  • 172.7 by 23.5 by 23.5 cm
  • Executed in 1955. Please note that in the print catalogue for this sale, this lot appears as number 49T.


Estate of the artist

Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York

Mrs. Nahum Goldman, Paris (acquired from the above on September 27, 1969)

Guido and Michael Goldman, Cambridge, Massachusetts (by descent from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 2, 1985, lot 51)

Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


New York, Willard Gallery, David Smith: Sculpture - Drawings, 1954-1956, March 6 - 31, 1956, illustrated (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955 and 1956)

São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, V São Paulo Bienal, U.S. Representation: Smith, Guston, Francis, Kadish, Frankenthaler, Goldberg, Kohn, Leslie, Marca-Relli, Metcalf, Mitchell, Rauschenberg, September 21 - December 31, 1959, no. 37

New York, Gagosian Gallery, David Smith: The Forgings, October 29, 2013 - January 11, 2014, illustrated in color in the catalogue pp. 26 (at Bolton Landing circa 1956), 27 and 86, illustrated in the catalogue pp. 8, 31 and 66 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955 and 1956) (incorrect size)


Jane Harrison Cone, David Smith 1906-1965. A Retrospective Exhibition (exhibition catalogue), Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1966, fig. 29, illustrated p. 47 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955) and no. 267, listed p. 74 

Rosalind E. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York and London, 1977, no. 334, illustrated and listed p. 66 (incorrect size)

Stanley E. Marcus, David Smith: The Sculptor and His Work, Ithaca, 1983, fig. 50, illustrated p. 129

Carmen Giménez, David Smith: 1906-1965 (exhibition catalogue), IVAM, Centre Julio Gonzàlez, Valencia & Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1996, illustrated p. 265 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955)

Sarah B. Kianovsky, "Annotated Checklist of Sculptures," David Smith: A Centennial (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York & Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou & Tate Modern, London, 2006, illustrated p. 315 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955)

Éric de Chassey, "...Un embouteillage de sculptures...," David Smith. Sculptures 1933-1964 (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris & Tate Modern, London, 2006, fig. 13, illustrated p. 61 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955)

Alex Potts, David Smith: Personnage (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2006, illustrated pp. 92 and 98 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955)

Sarah Hamill, David Smith: Works, Writings, Interview, Barcelona, 2011, illustrated p. 76 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955)

Joan Pachner, David Smith, London, 2013, fig. 67, illustrated pp. 82-83 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955)

Roberta Smith, "The Silent Totems of a Restless Quest: 'David Smith: The Forgings' at Gagosian Gallery," New York Times, January 2, 2014, illustrated in color p. C24

Sarah Hamill, "Picturing Autonomy: David Smith, Photography and Sculpture," Art History, v. 37, no. 3, June 2014, illustrated in color p. 545 and illustrated p. 559

Sarah Hamill, David Smith in Two Dimensions: Photography and the Matter of Sculpture, Oakland, California, 2015, pl. 16, illustrated in color (at Bolton Landing, circa 1956) and fig. 66, illustrated p. 114 (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955) and illustrated in color on the cover (at Bolton Landing, circa 1955)


Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at (212) 606-7254 for the condition report for this lot.
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

“The beaten metal, with its force and vigor and gleam full of powerful expression, has an additional and unexpected element of joy, as if pulsating from the echoes of a triumphant shout.” Betty Chamberlain, “Review of David Smith: Sculpture – Drawings, 1954-1956, Willard Gallery, New York,” ArtNews, April 1956

David Smith occupies a position of supreme importance among the legendary generation of American postwar artists. Throughout his career, Smith was able to channel the most radical of his avant-garde art discoveries into sculptural form, combining artistic daring with an immense skill in working with his materials. While Smith was a visiting artist at the University of Indiana in Bloomington in 1955, he executed a series of eleven works constituting the series of Forgings, all of which were comprised of a single vertical stainless steel bar, measuring from seven to nine feet high by six inches wide. The series epitomizes Smith’s close relationship with industrial materials and techniques while representing his most reductive and minimalist statement of form. His elegant command of his chosen steel penetrates every tantalizing point of contact in his Forging II from 1955, possessing a delicate synergy of poetry that accesses the emotional core of each viewer who stands before it. 

Echoing the radical simplicity of Brancusi’s forms and Giacometti’s elongated bronzes, the Forgings were the first works that Smith constructed entirely of stainless steel—the material that would become his favored medium in his esteemed series of Cubi sculptures. Smith described the Forgings as such: “It is a drawing line really… if you are interested in making a vertical, simple vertical with the development of a drawing concept… I was wondering about a line, you see; here’s the center part of it, and this form in here. I cut a hole and stuck a piece of metal in there and welded it, then hammered it down until it sent the sides out. The pressure of this center body of metal sent these sides out. This wasn’t done by hand; I had to work in a shop where they had a power cord” (the artist quoted in Rosalind E. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York and London, 1977, p. 66).

Forging II concurrently conveys mass and weightlessness. Upwardly thrusting from the earth, Smith’s Forgings are anthropomorphic in scale, their cuts and curves suggesting the forms of a human body. Reflecting the most accomplished of Smith’s Forgings, the present work is neither fully abstract nor entirely figurative. Like his Abstract Expressionist peer Willem de Kooning, whose iconic Woman paintings of the 1950s see the figural form coexist with painterly abstract brushwork, Smith championed the ambiguity of the image, allowing for infinite interpretation. Forging II is emphatically direct in both form and material, occupying a strong totemic presence that draws a line in space and shapes its contiguous environment. As described by Betty Chamberlain upon Smith’s 1956 exhibition at Willard Gallery: “[The Forgings] are tall, slim sentinels forged from steel bars with smaller steel pieces forced into and through the bars. In these, as in much of his work, including the drawings, he starts from the basic element of a simple straight line and works the sculpture from within. At first glance these powerful, upward reaching monoliths appear repetitious, but actually there is much detail hammered into the pieces and a rich variety of undulation and shape pushed out of the steel elementals. The beaten metal, with its force and vigor and gleam full of powerful expression, has an additional and unexpected element of joy, as if pulsating from the echoes of a triumphant shout” (Betty Chamberlain, “Review of David Smith: Sculpture – Drawings, 1954-1956, Willard Gallery, New York”, ArtNews, April 1956). Monolithic but deeply poetic, Smith’s Forgings appear to divide air and create a horizon line, akin to Barnett Newman’s celebrated ‘zips.’ Integral to the dawning of the majestic Forging series as the second numbered example, the present work establishes the defining elements of the Forgings while simultaneously quoting stylistic icons of Smith’s earlier sculpture. At its skeletal core, the revolutionary Forging II explores the potential for line and shape to surpass their form and achieve higher, nonrepresentational meaning. The sculpture’s immersion within space creates a physical form of monumental scale which appears to be filled with air and light, preceding the iconic minimalist sculpture of Donald Judd.

While Forging II embodies the progression of Smith’s work toward a radical minimalism, the sheer singularity of the sculpture positions him amongst the most revered Abstract Expressionists for his evocation of drama. As Clement Greenberg wrote of Jackson Pollock’s work, Smith distills the content of his sculpture to the point at which what swells to the fore is not a picture but an event. Hal Foster praised the works: “[The Forgings] can be read as signs of sculpture—of sculpture in the middle of the twentieth century, a difficult time for the art form when it was still in the shadow of painting and not yet free to explore ‘the expanded field’ opened up by Minimalism… What Smith achieved in the Forgings was entirely positive, for they declared space as the primary concern of sculpture to come. In this way, they did indeed form a new condition for this art” (Hal Foster in exhibition catalogue, New York, Gagosian Gallery, David Smith: The Forgings, 2013, p. 16).