Lot 21
  • 21

Alexander Calder

280,000 - 350,000 USD
550,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alexander Calder
  • Discs and Spiral on Red
  • incised with the artist's monogram on the base
  • sheet metal, brass wire and paint


Perls Galleries, New York
Private Collection, New York (acquired circa 1960)
Anita Freedman Fine Arts, New York
Posner Fine Art, Santa Monica (acquired in 1995)
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1995

Catalogue Note

A lyrical spiral, Calder’s signature shape, is delicately counter-balanced by three multicolored disks, each in a different color, in this small yet impactful little sculpture, Discs and Spiral on Red from 1960. Moving, poetic and amusing, the miniature mobiles of which the present work is a wonderful example, speak eloquently to Calder’s good natured and mischievous temperament. As they somehow manage to be plaything and works of art at the same time – and to the fullest extent of each, they are a reflection on the ambiguity of their maker, “the guy who looked like a general and made such strange toys.” (Gostoso, a gardener in Rio, quoted in Daniel Marchesseau, op. cit., pp. 202-3) A minuscule creature animated by the slightest breeze or the gentlest touch, helpless, selfless, spellbinding, this piece also represented a challenge to overcome for Calder. Its curlicue tail on one side and small flat, round elements designed to catch the wind on the other must all be balanced gradually until the artist has found the perfect gracious fulcrum which, on a piece this scale, shows the full extent of Calder’s mastery.

Very special to Calder, these “pocket mobiles” were made exclusively for his close friends such as artists Saul Steinberg, Fernand Leger and Joan Miró, as well as neighbors, family members and even strangers. Miró affectionately nicknamed Alexander Calder “Sandy” during their five-decade long friendship, during which they inspired each other and shared a similar tender and playful vision of color, shape, and space. Their mutual passion for poetic expression and desire to explore new realms of the unseen imagination strengthened the bonds of their friendship as well as the expressive quality of their respective oeuvres. At a show of Calder’s new work in 1936 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, the headline of the review in the New York World Telegram declared emphatically: “Calder’s Mobiles are Like Living Miró Abstractions.”

In 1945, Marcel Duchamp had the idea of exhibiting these whimsical little objects at the Galerie Louis Carré in Paris, exposing the American artist to an international audience. In the exhibition catalogue, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that Calder’s mobiles are neither sculptures, which suggest movement, nor paintings, which suggest light--instead they “truly capture movements in the air and embody them. They owe their lives to the life of the atmosphere. They simply are, they are absolutes.” (Jean-Paul Sartre in Exh. Cat., Paris, Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations,1946, pp. 11 and 15)