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29
Alexander Calder
FOURTEEN BLACK LEAVES
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1,400,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,688,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
29
Alexander Calder
FOURTEEN BLACK LEAVES
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,400,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,688,750 GBP
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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Alexander Calder
1898 - 1976
FOURTEEN BLACK LEAVES
incised with the artist's monogram and dated 61 on the largest element
painted sheet metal and wire
30 by 106 by 52 cm. 11 3/4 by 41 3/4 by 20 1/2 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

This work is registered in the archives of The Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A01839.

Provenance

Galerie Maeght, Paris

Brook St. Gallery, London (acquired from the above in 1964)

Harold Diamond, New York

Joseph Hirshhorn, Washington (acquired from the above)

Sotheby’s, New York, 11 November 1988, Lot 138A (consigned by the above)

Perls Galleries, New York (acquired from the above sale)

Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012

Catalogue Note

Pirouetting through space with the dynamic grace that characterises the best of Alexander Calder’s work, Fourteen Black Leaves epitomises the artist’s aesthetic and artistic theories. Combining a dictatorial approach to colour with an opposing fascination for movement and chance, Calder attained his goal of creating “a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprise” (Alexander Calder cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Jonathan O’Hara Gallery, Motion-Emotion: The Art of Alexander Calder, 1999, p. 4).

Calder’s formative years were spent in Paris, and it was there, prompted by a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930, that he made the move into abstraction. Entranced by a series of coloured rectangles Mondrian had tacked to the wall “in a pattern after his nature”, Calder speculated aloud that he “would like to make them oscillate”, contemplating “how fine it would be if everything moved” (Alexander Calder cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Jonathan O’Hara Gallery, Alexander Calder: Selected Works 1932-1972, 1994, p. 3). Mondrian objected furiously, but Calder could not be deterred. He considered movement “one of the primary elements of [artistic] composition, and realised that the truest representation of movement was not movement in stasis, as the Futurists had attempted to capture, but rather movement composition” (Alexander Calder cited in: ibid., p. 10). In the artist’s words, “You look at an abstraction… an intensely exciting arrangement… It would be perfect, but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion” (Alexander Calder cited in: ‘Objects to Art Being Static, So He Keeps It in Motion’, New York World-Telegram, 11 June 1932, n.p.).

Having worked on a miniature scale for much of his career up to that point, from 1953 onwards Calder’s work is predominantly characterised by monumental sculptures produced 'offsite' in Connecticut and Tours, France. As a result, the final twenty-three years of Calder’s life were punctuated by site-specific commissions all over the world, which cemented the American’s burgeoning fame. Despite this period as foreman rather than fabricator, Calder never ceased his production of domestically scaled works in his Roxbury studio, delighting in the increased mobility of these smaller sculptures compared to those on a monumental scale, such as Untitled in the lobby of the Chase Manhattan bank. Fourteen Black Leaves is one such work. Magnificent in its elegance and grace, the present work showcases perfectly what Jean-Paul Sartre described as the ‘lyrical invention’ of Calder’s mobiles.

This fascination with movement and form precluded Calder’s acknowledgement of any ulterior meaning to his work. In the mid-1950s, the heyday of the New York School and American Abstract Expressionism, Calder’s sculpture stood in stark opposition to the tortured and mythic themes of Rothko or Newman. As his wife explained, “He is always expressing his sense of pleasure… He isn’t tormented. He enjoys life” (Louisa Calder, cited in: Exh. Cat., Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art, Alexander Calder, 1898-1976, 1998, p. 279). Despite this, Calder’s felicity and joie de vivre should not be equated with a lack of seriousness in this magnificent and remarkably varied body of work. Resonating with his interactions, not only with Mondrian but the entire Surrealist cohort active in Paris in the 1930s, as well as an enduring intellectual and personal friendship with Joan Miró, Calder’s work is steeped in a deeply European sophistication and possesses a dignity and elegance unmatched by any other sculptor of his generation. However, it would also be a mistake to see Calder as solely the product of his time and his influences. He was a consummate creator, an inimitable artist whose consistent artistic invention throughout his career is undeniable. Even though he rejected the notion that art could conjure emotion in the way that the Abstract Expressionists claimed, there was always something immensely honest and unapologetic about his work. As Sartre wrote, “Calder does not suggest movement, he captures it… he imitates nothing, and I know no art less untruthful than his” (Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Existentialist on Mobilist’, Art News, No. 46. December 1947, p. 22).

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London