Lot 61
  • 61


1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Alexander Calder
  • Untitled
  • sheet metal, wire, and paint
  • 18 1/8 by 36 1/4 by 2 1/4 in. 46 by 90.1 by 5.7 cm.
  • Executed circa 1948, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A13397.


Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Christie's New York, February 22, 1995, Lot 21
Private Collection, Geneva
Sotheby's London, June 27, 2001, Lot 39 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection (acquired from the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Jean-Claude Marcadé, Calder, Paris, 1996, p. 125, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

An exquisite embodiment of Alexander Calder’s artistic achievements, Untitled exhibits a pure ‘joie de vivre,’ to quote Marcel Duchamp on Calder, bringing to life the pioneering spirit of one of the twentieth century’s most beloved artists. Executed in 1948, Untitled is a classic example of Calder’s mature work in his most desired and captivating format: the mobile. Its complex aerial composition is 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. With its complex intertwining forms, Untitled bespeaks Calder’s revolutionary theory of abstraction: “Why must art be static?...You look at an abstraction, sculpted or painted, an intensely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect, but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion.” (Alexander Calder in Howard Greenfield, The Essential Alexander Calder, New York, 2003, p. 67) Revolving in endless permutations, Untitled gracefully cascades from its suspension in two stacked sections that harmonize a vertical descent with an outward expansion. Under the spell of its mesmerizing movement, viewers delight in the twinkling splendor of its eighteen pristine, white discs. In describing the dynamism of his mobiles, Calder explained: “the underlying sense of form in my work has been the system of the Universe, or part thereof. For that is a rather large model to work from.” (Alexander Calder in Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Calder, Cologne, 1998, p. 20) Untitled demonstrates the artist’s grand ambitions, as its abstract forms suggest dynamic forces around a central axis—unpredictable gestures in a complex microcosm. The sum total of Untitled’s parts is a fantastical celestial map, with unseen forces orchestrating an ethereal, lyrical symphony; forever destined to sway and dance, Untitled breathes an air of perpetual motion. Its brilliant white forms vary in size but not shape and remain united, despite their orientation in alternating directions. In terms particularly evocative of the present work, art critic Sebastián Gasch describes the breathtaking innovation of Calder’s mobiles as containing: “a beauty as unprecedented and unique as a natural creation; they will look like no other existing thing. Calder’s works are beautiful in themselves and not merely in comparison to something; their beauty is autonomous.” (Carmen Giménez, Calder: Gravity and Grace, Madrid, 2003, pp. 66-67)

Untitled embodies Calder’s masterful yet intuitive application of disparate principles to the groundbreaking breakthroughs in abstraction of the early twentieth century. Art critic Jed Perl elaborates: “Alexander Calder joined sensibility with science, the empathetic with the engineered...no artist since Leonardo da Vinci had so closely studied not only the magic but also the mechanics of forms moving through air.” (Jed Perl in Stephanie Barron and Lisa Gabrielle Mark, Exh. Cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, Calder and Abstraction, 2013, p. 36) Before establishing a career as an artist, Calder initially pursued mathematics and engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey—an education that, surprisingly, did not prove critical to his development of the mobile. Shortly after dedicating himself to his artistic practice, Calder moved to Paris; after arriving in 1926, Calder attracted the attention of contemporaries such as Joan Miró, Piet Mondrian, Man Ray, Fernand Léger, Jean Arp, and significantly, Marcel Duchamp, who in 1931, coined the term ‘mobile’ for Calder’s work. The impetus for Calder’s move to abstraction occurred in a now legendary visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930, where the sight of rectangles of colored paper, arranged on the wall for compositional experimentation, inspired Calder to think of the kinetic possibilities of art. With its impeccable fusion of abstract compositional experimentation and kineticism, Untitled epitomizes Calder’s revolutionizing achievements in sculpture, which forever altered the history of art.

Calder fully exhibits his technical virtuosity and conceptual genius in Untitled—an enchanting, intimately-scaled paradigm of his mobiles. As one of the most visionary inventions of the twentieth century, Calder’s mobiles have been celebrated in major retrospective exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Tate Modern, London, and many more. Alluring and supremely sleek, the present work perfectly captures Calder’s vision for his output: “To most people who look at a mobile, it’s no more than a series of flat objects that move. To a few, though, it may be poetry.” (Alexander Calder in Exh. Cat., New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art (and travelling), Calder’s Universe, 1977, p. 268)