Lot 63
  • 63

Alexander Calder

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
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  • Alexander Calder
  • Untitled
  • incised with the artist's monogram and dated 65 on the blue element
  • painted sheet metal and wire
  • 23 1/2 by 91 by 27 1/2 in. 59.7 by 231.1 by 69.9 cm.


Earl Stendahl Gallery, Los Angeles
Acquired by the present owner from the above in May 1973

Catalogue Note

Untitled is a superb example of Alexander Calder’s iconic hanging mobiles, brilliantly merging the crucial tenets of the artist’s theory and practice into a singular sculpture that bespeaks its own beauty. A kaleidoscope of vividly painted metal bursts forth in harmonious equilibrium, the deep reds on one end perfectly balancing the yellow shapes on the opposing side. Created in 1965, the present work unites the scope of Calder’s rich creative dialect, both bold in its primary color palette and graceful in its delicate balance. Over seven feet in wingspan, Untitled is a superb monumental example from the artist’s sculptural output. Three organic yellow forms and one blue crescent with an aperture anchor one end of the mobile, balancing from one of two main branches. Connected by dazzling red wire, the opposite branch cascades into two black triangular forms, echoed by a similar white shape and three red triangular elements. The very tip of this staircase-like structure concludes in three red discs that, when turning inwards, float directly below the punctured black crescent. These thirteen variegated components create new compositions with negative space, each minor shift orchestrating an entirely new configuration. The present work also features a highly distinguished provenance, having been acquired from the Earl Stendahl Gallery in 1973, where it has remained ever since. The arrangement invites associations with the dynamism of the Universe, a theme that was of enduring fascination to the artist: “I think...the underlying sense of form in my work has been the system of the Universe, or a part thereof. For that is rather a large model to work from.” (Alexander Calder cited in Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Calder, Cologne, 1998, p. 20) When viewed with the artist’s intentions in mind, Untitled can be read as a fantastical celestial map, with unseen forces orchestrating an ethereal, lyrical symphony.

Calder’s unique and iconic output was the product of his talent in engineering and artistic inclination. Although born into a family of sculptors, Calder at first pursued mathematics and engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey; however, just six years later, his inherent creative drive and flair for the arts impelled him to move to Paris, where he would attract the attention of contemporaries such as Joan Miró, Piet Mondrian, Man Ray, Fernand Léger, Jean Arp and, significantly, Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp coined the term 'mobile' for Calder's work in 1931 and Calder went on to revolutionize the concept of traditional sculpture by utilizing the full potential of bodies in motion through the remarkable manipulation of metal and wire. Calder’s earliest wire sculptures - frequently portraits of well-known figures of the day - had caused a sensation when exhibited in Paris and New York during the late 1920s, yet the sculptor still sought the elusive breakthrough that would enable him to forge an entirely new visual vernacular. The impetus for Calder’s move to abstraction occurred in a now legendary visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930, where the sight of rectangles of colored paper, arranged on the wall, for compositional experimentation, inspired Calder to think of the kinetic possibilities of art. In an interview in 1932, Calder revealed his excitement at the extraordinary new creative world he was discovering: “Why must art be static?...You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an intensely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion.” (Alexander Calder cited in Howard Greenfield, The Essential Alexander Calder, New York, 2003, p. 67) By transforming the practice of sculpture in establishing a fine harmony of color, balance and movement, Calder singularly revolutionized the medium, contributing to one of the most groundbreaking artistic innovations of the Twentieth Century.

The significance of Calder’s pioneering achievements, as beautifully epitomized in Untitled, has been highlighted in major retrospectives at internationally renowned museums such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Tate Modern, London, amongst many others. Calder’s eloquent spatial explorations revolutionized the sculptural practice of the twentieth century and set forms in motion with more lyricism, elegance and joie de vivre than any other artist. Gently swaying and producing endless dynamic variations in the delicate movements of its organic forms, the present work is a complex and enchanting paradigm of Calder’s most heroic artistic triumphs.