Lot 3
  • 3


1,000,000 - 1,500,000 EUR
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  • Alexander Calder
  • Untitled
  • signed with the artist initials and dated 58
  • sheet metal wire and paint
  • 70 x 174 cm; 27 1/2 x 68 1/2 in. (flat)
  • 70 x 150 cm; 27 1/2 x 59 1/16 in. (suspended)
  • Executed in 1958.


Alain Prévost, France (acquired directly from the artist, circa 1960)
Thence by descent to the present owners


Please note that the length of the mobile, when laid out flat is 174 cm (confirmed by the Calder Foundation), and 150 cm when suspended. Due to natural aging, the elements are slightly dirty. Under very close inspection some tiny lacks are visible near the edges of the elements and on the wires especially in the loops at the junctions. Some repaintings are visible, especially on the blue element. Paint layers are stable. This work is in overall good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A piece by Calder is like the sea, haunting like her: always transformed, always new. It's not meant to be glanced at in passing, but to be experienced and exert fascination. Only then can imagination rejoice at its pure changing forms, both loose and tuned.
Jean-Paul Sartre Mobile is a prime example of Calder original work as it commands the structuring elements of the space it is placed in, while also masterfully adapting to them and evolving under the influence of air and light to the point of becoming polymorphic.

Born in 1899 from a sculptor father and a painter mother in the Philadelphia area, Calder moved to the cosmopolite city of Paris during the interwar period. There, he quickly became friend with the avant-garde of the time, especially with Marcel Duchamp who named his sculptures "mobiles" in 1932. For it was at that time that Calder created his first tridimensional objects that defied the laws of gravity and revealed his revolutionary plastic approach based on the tension between balance and imbalance.

With multiple rods spanning over one metre forty bearing at their ends a dozen geometric satellites in the vivid primary colors that characterize the artist's color palette, the mobile we are presenting here captures Calder's full creative and visionary thinking in a synthetic and masterful way.

Powerfully poetic, Mobile was created in the second half of the 1950s: a productive decade during which the artist made his first "stabiles". It was more precisely in 1958, a consecrating year for Calder who created the monumental mobile of the UNESCO Parisian headquarter, one of his masterpieces.

At each subtle movement of Mobile, one cannot but feel the deep poetry of the metallic undulating rods and the cheerfully colored geometric shapes waving at their end. A poetical dimension elegantly captured by Alain Prevost in a major article dedicated to Calder in the famous Mercure de France literary magazine in 1959: "The Mobiles breath in the air that enlivens them and give life in return. The coming breeze breaks down the still image, recomposes it and creates a thousand images that play with yellow, blue and red possibilities... The blades align and fade behind one another. Like time, the moving Mobile is all together future, past and present. From one fraction of a second to another, it shows a new image of itself. The life of a Mobile is the movie of the various positions the blades have taken every time it has moved since its creation. Men don't know how to manipulate the Mobile. Men are brutal; they only have two hands with ten fingers. Only the air knows how to play with a Mobile. And Calder is the one who makes them."

Coming from the former collection of Alain Prevost and kept out sight for almost 60 years, Mobile stands out for its whimsical and unstable elegance, halfway between a fantastic tale and a romantic chant. In doing so, it perfectly illustrates the fascination of Sartre for the mobiles, bewitched as we are by this "little jazzy hot object, unique and fleeting, like the first light".


This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation in New York, under number A17183.