Lot 4
  • 4

Naum Gabo

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Naum Gabo
  • Model for a Sculpture in Rotterdam (Final Model for Bijenkorf Construction, Rotterdam)
  • painted brass, copper and steel on a bronze base
  • height (not including base): 153.5cm.
  • 60 1/2 in.


N.V. Kononklijke Bijenkorf Beheer KBB, Amsterdam (commissioned from the artist in October 1955. Sold: Sotheby’s, London, 25th June 1985, lot 57)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Kassel, Fridericianum Museum, Documenta ’59. Kunst nach 1945. Internationale Ausstellung, 1959, no. 3

Vienna, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Kunst von 1900 bis Heute, 1962, no. 206, illustrated in the catalogue

London, The Tate Gallery, Naum Gabo: Sixty Years of Constructivism, 1987

Oxford, Museum of Modern Art; Newcastle, Hatton Gallery; Hull, Ferens Art Gallery; Manchester, Manchester City Art Gallery; Birmingham, Birmingham City Art Gallery & Glasgow, Glasgow Art Gallery & Museum, Naum Gabo: The Constructive Idea: Sculpture, Drawings, Paintings, Monoprints, 1987-88, no. 29 (with incorrect measurements)


Banham P. Rayner, 'Gabo in Rotterdam', in Architectural Review, vol. 119, May 1956, illustrated p. 270

'Integration des arts dans l’architecture', in Aujourd’hui: art et architecture, year 2, no. 11, January 1957, illustrated p. 18

Herbert Read & Leslie Martin, Gabo: Constructions, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, London, 1957, illustrated pls. 98 & 99

Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, London, 1981, mentioned p. 260

Colin Sanderson & Christina Lodder, 'Catalogue Raisonné of the Constructions and Sculptures' in Naum Gabo: Sixty Years of Constructivism (exhibition catalogue), Munich, 1985, no. 67.4, catalogued pp. 244-245

Colin Sanderson, 'Gabo Revisited', in Art Monthly, February 1988, mentioned p. 16

Martin Hammer & Christina Lodder, Constructing Modernity: The Art & Career of Naum Gabo, New Haven & London, 2000, mentioned p. 357

Natalia Sidlina, Naum Gabo, London, 2012, photographs of the project pp. 180-181

Catalogue Note

The present work is the final model for what is arguably Gabo’s greatest achievement in sculpture for a public space - a monumental construction for the newly commissioned Bijenkorf building in Rotterdam, which was completed and unveiled in 1957 (fig. 1). As Richard Cork has noted, 'only in the colossal sculpture for the Bijenkorf Department store in Rotterdam did Gabo’s work really flower on a public scale. It offers a tantalising idea of the work he might have been able to carry out in Russia, if only the onset of Stalinism had not crushed all hope of nurturing adventurous art' (R. Cork, 'Untrammelled Optimism', in Listener, 26th February 1987, p. 30).

In 1954 Gabo was approached by the architect Marcel Breuer who was working on the construction of a new building in the centre of Rotterdam, which was to house the Bijenkorf department store. Breuer wanted Gabo to create a sculpture which would match the overall aesthetic of his own project by ameliorating the street side appearance of its austere, minimalist façade. Gabo was intrigued by the possibility of working alongside a major architect whose work he greatly admired, and by the opportunity to be part of the redevelopment of Rotterdam in the wake of the Second World War. Initially, he envisaged mounting a large relief on the side of the building, but in November that idea was abandoned and the sculptor and Breuer sought permission for a freestanding structure instead. As much of an artistic challenge as one of engineering, the completed work was to stand at 85 feet high. Pre-stressed concrete, steel, bronze wire and marble were all employed to give the work both the structural durability and the desired aesthetic effect. The present model was created as a perfect scaled-down version from which the artist could gauge the impact of his work when set against Breuer’s own architectural model of the department store.