Lot 17
  • 17

Alexander Calder

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alexander Calder
  • Untitled
  • incised with the artist's monogram on the base
  • sheet metal, wire, and paint
  • 17 1/4 by 27 by 16 in. 43.8 by 68.6 by 40.6 cm.
  • Executed circa 1968.


Jean Davidson, United States
Private Collection, France (gift of the above in 1969)
Christie's, Paris, May 30, 2007, Lot 324 (consigned by the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

Perpetually in motion with an ineffable grace, Alexander Calder’s beautiful standing mobile Untitled possesses an exquisite balance of form and color that exemplifies the very best of the artist’s oeuvre. Poised atop an elegantly perched red base, a constellation of six cascading snowflake-like circular white elements are suspended in midair, counterbalanced by a pierced yellow element that grounds the sculpture with charm and élan. Executed in 1968, Untitled was first owned by Calder’s son-in-law Jean Davidson, who introduced Calder to Saché – the small village near Tours where the Calders first went in 1953 and later bought a home in which the artist lived and worked. The present work is striking in the simplicity of its execution yet also unprecedented in the ingenuity of its structural composition. Delicately creating a mesmerizing sense of architectural equilibrium on an intimate scale, Calder extends the modernist remit of color, line, and form to encompass the laws of balance, motion and chance. Calder’s progeny of “mobiles” and “stabiles” were the result of an aesthetic epiphany during a 1930 visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio that is one of the seminal anecdotes of Twentieth Century art. Famously, he was inspired to discover a three-dimensional art form that would embody the reductive palette and spatial inventiveness of Mondrian’s neo-plastic paintings and bring these modernist elements into the viewer’s experience and space. The aerial complexities of his mobiles would follow, and the architectonic stabiles would be placed on the gallery floors so as to commingle with viewer. Ultimately, the two would inspire a hybrid form that captured both the stationary elegance of the stabiles with the choreography and movement of the mobiles, the combination of which is so delicately epitomized in the masterful Untitled. As Calder once described his differing bodies of work, "the mobile has actual movement in itself, while the stabile is back at the old painting idea of implied movement." (Alexander Calder and Katharine Kuh, "Alexander Calder," The Artist's Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists, New York, 1962) Here, the standing mobile spans both these worlds as it employs a stabile structure to support mobile arms and thus it resides in a liminal realm of potential energy and possibility. The work is at once active but stationary, both enigmatic yet absolute. 

The diversity of balance and axis in the delicate white hanging elements with the horizontal plane of the yellow disc displays a complex contrapuntal composition full of the cadence and dexterity that are unique to Calder’s canon of suspended forms, moving in a sublime metallic ballet of ever-changing composition. Renowned for their outstanding beauty and craftsmanship, Calder’s standing mobiles are a testament to his technical skill, imaginative genius and talent for organic composition. The liberation of pictorial form and color into the third dimension of real space is on full display in Untitled. The freedom of movement opened the work up to the external world and increased the level of interaction between the artwork, architecture, and, more importantly, the viewer. Calder’s unique ability was to create works of exquisitely balanced composition which retain their playful humor, formalist elements, and harmony when moved by its surrounding air. The striking red, yellow, and white elements are here anchored together using a series of exceptional mechanisms that allow them to move independently of each other yet retaining a formal unity that ensures that none of the elements dominate or touch each other. While the mobile's shapes recall planetary, natural and biomorphic forms, the work is unfettered by any direct notion of representation. Instead, Untitled interacts with its environment, participating actively in the universe in a riveting expression of Calder’s creative genius.

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A23343.