May 17, 2015


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Lot 167: Alexander Calder

Lot 167: Alexander Calder

Quatre Blancs

Sheet metal, wire, and paint

Signed and dated "CA 76" on blue disc

19.625" x 20.5" x 12"

Provenance: Galerie Maeght, Paris, France;
Private Collection, Los Altos, California (acquired from the above through Maeght USA, San Francisco, California, 1978)

Exhibited: "Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles," Galerie Maeght, Paris, December 1, 1976-January 8, 1977

Illustrated: Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles. Galerie Maeght: Paris, 1976. #37.

Estimate: $500,000 - $700,000
Price Realized: $826,250
Inventory Id: 19167

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Alexander Calder (1898–1976), a modernist master known for revolutionizing abstract sculpture and originating kinetic art mobiles, lived much of his professional life between France and New York. A member of the avant-garde, he employed Surrealist tendencies and counted Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, Jean Arp, Piet Mondrian, and other art world stars, as friends and confidants. After World War II, Calder returned to Paris for many exhibitions and he quickly found enthusiastic support in the form of Galerie Maeght. Aimé and Marguerite Maeght provided refuge for the artistic elite and literati during the occupied years in France. Later, the prestigious gallery became a nexus for like-minded artists, and nurtured the careers of Duchamp, Miró, and Marc Chagall, among other 20th-century icons. From 1950 to his death, Calder showed with Galerie Maeght, Paris.

Whimsical, colorful, and popular–as an artist who “radically translated French Surrealist vocabulary into American vernacular” it is no surprise that Calder found a receptive audience in California. Indeed, the link between the artist and Southern California was established very early on. From 1906 to 1909, Calder’s family lived in Pasadena. His father, also a sculptor, worked on commissions for California locations. For one project he created archways for a building on the campus of what would become the California Institute of Technology. His parents encouraged his skill in making things by hand. They gave him his first tool set and provided the young boy with his first studio in the cellar of the family’s Pasadena house.

At the height of his career Alexander Calder happily obliged numerous requests for commissions in California. In 1947 he had a solo exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The museum boasts a large standing mobile in red, black, blue, and white, in its rooftop sculpture garden. A milestone achievement, Calder’s Three Quintains (Hello Girls) (1964) fountain was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to coincide with the opening of the museum on Wilshire Boulevard in 1965. He also designed the celebratory poster announcing LACMA’s start. In November 2013, the county museum presented the critically lauded, Frank Gehry designed, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, which exhibited the artist’s sculptures, mobiles, stabiles, and maquettes, spanning forty years. Other key public artworks include the Bunker Hill landmark in downtown Los Angeles: Four Arches (1974), so-titled in homage to his father’s archway reliefs at Caltech. In UCLA’s tranquil sculpture garden rests Button Flower (1959), and Spinal Column (1968), lies at the front steps of the San Diego Museum of Art.

Lot 167, Quatre Blancs (1976), is a prime example of Calder’s artistic genius. “The substantial size, the simple construction, the elegant balance, and the primary colors—Quatre Blancs shows Calder’s masterful ability to distill his life’s work into a simple gesture,” states Peter Loughrey, Director of Fine Art & Design at LAMA. Among Calder’s very last works, this outstanding sculpture was made for his Galerie Maeght show in December 1976, which opened shortly after his death. This lot will be offered at auction for the first time since the original owner purchased the work in 1978 through Galerie Maeght, Paris.

Calder’s long-standing relationship with Galerie Maeght was significant in establishing the artist’s international market: with the gallery his work traveled from Paris, across America, to California. This lot was acquired through Galerie Maeght by a Northern California collector and comes direct to Los Angeles to trade hands.

Major exhibitions of Calder’s sculptures will open at Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri, in May 2015; and at Tate Modern, London, in November 2015. Alexander Calder is one of fourteen renowned artists heralded in American Icons: Masterworks from SFMOMA and the Fisher Collection, on view April 8–22 June 2015, at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Barron, Stephanie, Ilene Susan Fort, Aleca Le Blanc, Jed Perl, and Harriet F. Senie. Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic. Ed. Stephanie Barron and Lisa Gabrielle Mark. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013. Print. “Calder’s Life: Chronology and Exhibitions.” Calder Foundation. Web. and Miró, Joan Punyet, and Fundació, Joan Miró. Calder: 20 Novembre 1997–15 Febrer 1998. Barcelona: Fundació, Joan Miró, 1997. Print. “Press Release: Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic.” LACMA. Web. Several, Michael. “Four Arches: Historical Background.” Public Art in LA. June 1998. Web. “Alexander Calder: Objects to Art Being Static, So He Keeps It in Motion,” New York World-Telegram 11 June 1932. Print. in Lucy Flint. “Alexander Calder: Untitled.” Guggenheim. Web.