Lot 101
  • 101

RUTH ASAWA | Untitled (S.422, Hanging Single-Lobed, Three Layers of Spheres)

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Ruth Asawa
  • Untitled (S.422, Hanging Single-Lobed, Three Layers of Spheres)
  • copper, iron and brass wire
  • 21 3/4 by 28 1/2 by 28 1/2 in. 55.2 by 72.4 by 72.4 cm.
  • Executed circa 1954.


Collection of Bruce Walkup, San Francisco (acquired directly from the artist in 1954)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1957


Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum; Los Angeles, Japanese American National Museum, The Sculptures of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air, November 2006 - May 2007, cat. no. 63, p. 185, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

"Transparency, it was Josef Albers's word. I liked the idea, and it turns out my sculpture is like that. You can see through it. The piece does not hide anything. You can show inside and outside, and inside and outside are connected. Everything is connected, continuous."
Ruth Asawa

Sotheby's is honored to present the following two works by Ruth Asawa from the Collection of James J. Ludwig. These hanging sculptures highlight the artist's diverse oeuvre and stand out as fresh-to-market gems by the San Francisco sculptor. Throughout Ruth Asawa’s life she experimented with wire, in particular its capacity to balance open and closed forms, and invented a powerful three-dimensional vocabulary that is embodied by the unique forms of the following lots. Committed to enhancing the quality of daily life through her works of art, Asawa contributed a unique perspective to the formal explorations of 20th century abstract sculpture and stands as a pioneering modernist sculptor. Her contributions can be traced through many public commissions, her lifelong activism in education and the arts, and the now permanent installation of fifteen sculptures at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. Asawa’s sculptures redefined art as a way of thinking about forms in space rather than as a merely stylistic practice. James J. Ludwig graduated from Yale University and has since remained an active alumnus through leadership and philanthropy roles. After serving in World War II at the age of 18, Ludwig began his career with Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Ludwig was selected to launch and manage their new San Francisco store where he went on to lead as an executive within the company for over 30 years. Ludwig purchased a home just off San Francisco’s famous Lombard Street in 1957 that included Asawa’s Untitled (S.422, Hanging Single-Lobed, Three Layers of Spheres). After living with this looped wire sculpture for decades, Ludwig acquired a second piece Untitled (S.256), directly from the artist in 2002 following years of friendship. Untitled (S.256), is one of Asawa's iconic tied wire sculptures consisting of two interlocking forms that begins with an open center of six branches of bundled wire. The bundles are tied, then divide and branch out, with nature as the model.

With a deep appreciation for Asawa’s ability to enhance the quality of daily life through her works of art, the Ludwig family loaned Untitled (S.422, Hanging Single-Lobed, Three Layers of Spheres) to the artist’s 2006 retrospective, The Sculptures of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air, presented by the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum allowing countless visitors to share in the joy the sculpture has provided them for decades. In addition to having an excellent eye for Contemporary and African Art, Ludwig has remained an active and integral part of San Francisco’s rich culture. Highly connected within the San Francisco scene, Ludwig was an early investor in Don and Doris Fisher’s very first Gap store in 1969. In the years following this fortuitous investment, Ludwig has remained dear friends with the Fishers whose world renowned collection anchors the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Ludwig’s impact on the city has been extensive, serving as president and chairman of the board of both the San Francisco Ballet Association and the San Francisco Zoological Society, CEO of the Medical Research Institute at California Pacific Medical Center and multiple committees at the de Young Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art among other civic and cultural entities.

Asawa's recent exhibition, Ruth Asawa: Life's Work, at the Pultizer Arts Foundation Arts Foundation was met to wide critical acclaim and provided even richer insight into the artist's innovative contributions to the field of modern and contemporary sculpture. For years, James J. Ludwig has lived alongside these museum quality sculptures so it is with great honor that Sotheby's presents the following lots to the public.