Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Little Red and Blue 1976

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Lot 7
Alexander Calder
(American, 1898-1976)
Little Red and Blue

Sold for US$ 2,070,312 inc. premium
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Little Red and Blue

incised with the artist's monogram and dated 76 (on the blue element)
sheet metal, wire and paint

27 1/2 by 49 in.
69.8 by 124.4 cm.


  • This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application no. A02195.

    Estate of the Artist
    M. Knoedler & Co., New York
    John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco (acquired from the above in 1978)
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1979

    Paris, Gallery Maeght, Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles, 1976 - 1977, no. 11
    Barcelona, Galerie Maeght, Calder: Exposicio Antologica (1932-1976), 1977

    Jacques Prevert, Couleurs de Braque, Calder, Miró, Paris: Maeght Éditeur 1981, p. 55, illustrated in color

    Exquisitely arranged in a continuous and ever-changing dance, Alexander Calder's breath-taking Little Red and Blue (1976), is a seminal work by the pioneering artist in his most desirable and iconic form: the mobile. Coming to auction for the very first time having been in an important private collection for almost half a century, the present work is a monumental example of Calder's singular sense of elegance combined with his lively spontaneity, creating a mesmerizing and harmonious mobile.

    A supremely elegant combination of sleek design and technical craftsmanship, the present work is an excellent example of a master creating at the height of his artistic practice. A marvelous example of an important mature work by the artist, Little Red and Blue was created in 1976, a seminal year marking the pinnacle of Calder's illustrious career. Created just a few months prior to the artist's unexpected passing, the year saw the opening of the artist's major retrospective show at the Whitney Museum in New York entitled Calder's Universe. The show traveled to fifteen cities throughout the United States and Japan, and numerous artists and important figures honored him at the show's opening dinner including Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Miller, Louise Nevelson, Marcel Breuer, John Cage and Merce Cunningham. Already recognized as one of the Twentieth Century's most important sculptors, the exhibition cemented his influence and importance within the canon of American Art, an honor overshadowed only by President Gerald Ford's offer of the Medal of Freedom. Recognizing the artist's meteoric contribution to the American arts, Calder declined the award in protest of the Vietnam War.

    Calder came from a family of well-established sculptors. At the age of eight he was given his first studio amidst the burgeoning Californian Arts and Crafts movement. These embryonic experiences no doubt played a role when, in 1926, Calder moved to Paris and began to develop his wire sculpture and his Cirque Calder (1926–1931), a unique body of performance art made from wire and a spectrum of found materials. This break from the tradition of static sculpture anticipated Calder's invention of the mobile, which he first realized in 1931 by adding motors to his abstract objects. It was Marcel Duchamp who coined the term "mobile" during a studio visit in the fall of that year. By 1932, Calder had created his first suspended mobile that was free from all mechanization, propelled instead by human intervention or air currents.

    Little Red and Blue is a superlative example of a Calder mobile. Exceptionally elegant and sleek in design, the graceful geometric shapes are suspended from wires. Encompassing multiple complex elements rendered in Calder's archetypal striking palette of bright colors, the red and blue forms greet each other with a constant embrace, continuously slipping and gliding past each other in a continuous dance. Unceasingly exploring the limits of the space around it, when viewed from below the installation takes on the form of a constellation or other stellar movement in the night sky. Calder noted that "since the beginning of my work in abstract art, and even though it was not obvious at the time, I felt that there was no better model for me to work from than the Universe.... Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space, surrounded by vivid clouds and tides, currents of air, viscosities and fragrances-in their utmost variety and disparity" (the artist quoted in Carmen Giménez and Alexander S. C. Rower Eds., Calder: Gravity and Grace, London 2004, p. 52).

    His most desirable body of work, Calder's mobiles are completely free of pattern, prediction and plan and instead allow for random movement and spontaneous variations. With every motion, a new perspective and relationship is created between each of the sculptural elements, continuously creating a new association. By relinquishing artistic and creative control of the mobile, Calder is unafraid to embrace the opportunity for chance within his work and encourages the possibility of improvisation and the creation of infinite variations of shape, form and design. Yet despite the spontaneity of each movement, every mobile by Calder is finely executed and composed. While completely unpredictable, the work maintains an effortless balance and serene harmony. Displaying the artist's unparalleled technical achievement and pioneering artistic genius, Little Red and Blue is a unique and perfect combination of color, form, weight, balance and motion and a superlative marriage of artistic excellence and technical precision.

    One of the greatest and most renowned artists of the Twentieth Century, Alexander Calder's works can be found in the collections of numerous international institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. In recent years Calder has been the subject of several major museum shows including Tate Modern's 2015 exhibition Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture, the Whitney Museum's 2017 retrospective Calder: Hypermobility, and Alexander Calder: Scaling Up at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the same year.

    Max Weitzenhoffer could never have been a typical art collector. Born into a collecting family, Max watched his mother and father assemble an important collection of Impressionist and Modern Art. They traveled to pursue their passion, buying paintings and drawings as well as English furniture and blue and white porcelain to decorate their home in Oklahoma. Ultimately that renowned collection was generously donated to the Fred Jones Museum and is permanently on view in Norman where it is visited by members of the public as well as the professors and students at the University of Oklahoma.

    Max learned from his mother, Clara, the important lesson that collecting art is a highly individual pursuit. He was always going to strike out on his own. As told in the fascinating biography To the Max: Max Weitzenhoffer's Magical Trip from Oklahoma to New York and London—and Back by Tom Lindley, after starting a career in New York City as an apprentice to, and then later a trusted agent for, the prestigious art dealer David Findlay, Max ultimately went into partnership with the art dealing Gimpel family. He opened their New York branch as Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Art Gallery on Madison Avenue. He introduced Modern European and British works to a new audience in New York and discovered numerous 20th Century artists for his own collection, including several wonderful talents of Mid-20th Century Britain. He was particularly close to Barbara Hepworth and remembers her personal (sometimes harrowing) stories of married life to Ben Nicholson and her relationship and friendly rivalry with Henry Moore. Alan Davie was another artist friend whom Max introduced to an American audience.

    It was on a 1965 trip to London that Max fell in love with the vibrant Wassily Kandinsky Einige Spitzen (1925), which leads our Impressionist and Modern Art sale on the 17th November in New York. He underbid the work at a Christie's auction, but regretted letting it sell to another bidder. Max pursued the work following the sale, buying the painting from Arthur Tooth, art dealer and close friend familiar to the entire Weitzenhoffer family. Max was also friends with John Berggruen, who sold him the present work, Little Red and Blue, soon after Berggruen left Perls Gallery, Calder's dealer for many years in New York.

    This was collecting in the American style: getting to know the right players, buying with great knowledge and research but also using strong instinct and faultless taste. In his life as a theatre owner and producer Max has also shown his great discernment. In addition to works of art, the walls of Max's home are adorned with glossy playbills, Olivier and Tony awards, and other accolades that tell the story of his successful life in both the New York and London theatre circles.

    Bonhams is honored to have the chance to share some of this collector's brave and bold taste with a global audience.
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Little Red and Blue 1976
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Little Red and Blue 1976
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Little Red and Blue 1976
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Little Red and Blue 1976
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Little Red and Blue 1976
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Little Red and Blue 1976
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