Lot 38
  • 38


2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • Alexander Calder
  • Red Crescent
  • rods, wood, sheet metal, and paint
  • 66 by 19 1/2 by 17 in. 167.6 by 49.5 by 43.2 cm.
  • Executed circa 1951, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A03796.


Galerie Maeght, Paris
Waddington Galleries Ltd., London
Private Collection, New York
Vivian Horan Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 1989)
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2006


New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, Alexander Calder: Gongs and Towers, January - February 1952 
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Center; and Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, November 1964 - July 1965, no. 215 (New York) (incorrectly dated 1953), no. 205 (Milwaukee), no. 169 (Paris)
Zurich, Galerie Maeght, Alexander Calder: Retrospektive, May - July 1973, no. 48 (text)
Barcelona, Galeria Maeght, Calder: Exposicio Antologica (1932-1976), April - May 1977, p. 30 (text)
London, The Mayor Gallery; and London, Waddington Galleries, Calder, April 1981, p. 15, illustrated


José Gómez Sicre, 4 Artists of the Americas: Roberto Burle-Marx, Alexander Calder, Amelia Palaez, Rufino Tamayo, Washington, D.C., 1957, p. 105, illustrated 
Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Alexander Calder, Cologne, 1998, p. 1, illustrated in color 
Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Alexander Calder: 1888-1976, Cologne, 2002, p. 1, illustrated in color
Arnauld Pierre, Calder: Mouvement et Réalité, Paris, 2009, p. 134, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Alexander Calder’s Red Crescent is a sterling example of the artist’s mesmerizing synthesis of abstract painterly forms and the simple, delicate armatures of his Mobiles and Stabiles. In resonance with unseen forces of nature, the present work is a distinctively illustrative display by one of the patriarchs of American Modernism, weightlessly suspending the metallic spheres across a stoic arc. Throughout his career, Calder repeatedly addressed his formal interest in the dynamism of the universe, and returned back to a defining moment of clarity that took place in 1922, off the Guatemalan coast, while the artist was onboard a boat bound for San Francisco: “He witnessed the movement of two heavenly bodies: the fiery red, rising sun on one side, and the pale setting moon on the other. It was a vision of staggering beauty and it produced a genuine shock.” (Daniel Marchesseau, The Intimate World of Alexander Calder, Paris 1989, p. 27) Such a profound experience of the fundamental laws of motion on the grandest of scales captured the artist’s imagination, informing and guiding the kinetic sculptures that he produced over the course of his massively celebrated career.  In the present work, many of Calder’s core ideas and pivotal experiences emerge with virtuosic clarity, depicting a dynamic arrangement of orbs projecting into space; an immaculate illustration of the artist’s epiphanic experiences in his twenties that went beyond the mere momentary stops of the sun and the moon. The artist brings the unfathomable distances into stark alignment and simplicity. An image that recurs across Calder’s practice – particularly in other stabiles such as Gibraltar (1936) and Morning Star (1943), both in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York – the night sky’s illusive, mysterious quality serves the artist’s purpose well, giving form to the unknown yet familiar, the untouchable yet intimate. The iconic Existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote of him: “Calder does not suggest movement, he captures it...he imitates nothing, and I know no art less untruthful than his.” (Jean-Paul Sartre, “Existentialist on Mobilist,” ARTnews 46, December 1947, p. 22)

The migration of painterly shapes from canvas into physical space situated Calder at the forefront of the avant-garde in the middle of the twentieth century, through combining his longstanding and fastidious appreciation for the action of the circus with the infinite mysteries of nonobjective forms. Having studied mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, it is of little coincidence that his practice should evolve into such a groundbreaking fusion of automatic architecture and gestural freedom, capturing – with all the precision of a carefully hand-assembled machine – the ambitious, utopian moment of post-war America. But Calder remained indebted to the artists he befriended and exchanged ideas with during his time in Paris between 1926 and 1933. Echoing the momentous text by Albert Einstein, Calder’s Mobiles and Stabiles espouse a spatio-temporal coupling, uniting time and space in equilibrium, removing painting’s constituent parts from the atemporal canvas, and placing them in the universal continuum. As Einstein writes: “before the advent of the theory of relativity, time played a different and more independent role, as compared with the space coordinates. It is for this reason that we have been in the habit of treating time as an independent continuum.” (Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, New York, 2004, p. 47) It is this decisive transition from the formal rigidities of painting to the ‘real’ contingencies of sculpture that differentiated Calder from his École de Paris influences. The lyricism of Red Crescent encapsulates the grandeur of its subject and brings the energy of the cosmos into profound proximity. Fixed by the rectilinear framework, the spheres of the present work resonate with the color palette of one of Calder’s principal influences and allies, Piet Mondrian, with the sculptural elegance that has made him one of the most beloved American artists of the twentieth century.