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Caged Stone and Fourteen Dots

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“The basis of everything for me is the Universe. From the beginnings of my abstract work…I felt there was no better model for me to choose than the Universe…. Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space… of the greatest variety and disparity.” (Alexander Calder cited in: Jean Lipman, Calder’s Universe, London, 1976, p. 18) Executed circa 1948, Caged Stone and Fourteen Dots was created in a crucial decade marked by the growing recognition and international acclaim of the career of Alexander Calder. The artist's critically lauded retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which began in 1943 and was extended into 1944 due to high popular acclaim, was a momentous milestone, betokening the curatorial and public appreciation for Calder's unique sculptural practice. As a work that embraces the delicacy of form and scale of his wire and standing sculptures of the late 1930s whilst presaging the absolute kinetic grace of his hanging mobiles of the 1940s, Calder's Caged Stone and Fourteen Dots is in itself a remarkable compendium of the achievements of this most innovative sculptor.\nMoving to a natural, spontaneous rhythm, the inherent elegance of Caged Stone and Fourteen Dots recalls Calder’s bent-wire ‘Circus’ performances of the previous decade, in which the timing and balance of the component parts moving back and forth in an interactive dance created a tangible sense of drama and suspense. The present work is one of Calder’s most poetic standing mobiles of the late 1940s, and importantly provides a bridge between his earliest investigations incorporating found objects such as bits of colored glass and wood, with his late mobiles made entirely of metal. As its name suggests, Caged Stone and Fourteen Dots features a found stone, which Calder enclosed in a cage of his distinctive red painted wire and employed as an anchor to his constellation of floating dots. As if celestial bodies charting the course of a three-dimensional map of the universe, the impossibly delicate multi-colored discs of the present work orbit around and amongst one another in marvelous harmony. Calder’s genius lies in the creation of mechanically and physically complex works that appear entirely organic, as if the seamless choreography of their individual elements were simply inherent, even inevitable.  As the artist himself explained, “The underlying system of form in my work has been the system of the universe, or part thereof, for that is rather a large model to work from. What I mean is that the idea of detached bodies floating in space of different sizes and densities, perhaps of different colors and temperatures, and surrounded and interlarded with wisps of gaseous condition, and some at rest, while others move in peculiar manners, seems to me the ideal source of form.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., Washington D.C, National Gallery of Art, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, 1998, p. 59) Like the cosmos, from which Calder drew his inspiration, the most phenomenal examples of his art, such as Caged Stone and Fourteen Dots are simultaneously deeply scientific and utterly mystical in their form.\nThroughout much of the 1930s, Calder had resided in Paris which was at the time the creative center of the art world. There he came into contact with the leading artists of the day including Piet Mondrian, Jean Arp, Naum Gabo and Fernand Léger, as well as other pioneers of the modern movement. In particular, Calder’s drive towards a more refined form of expression reflects the influence of the close spiritual kinship he shared with his lifelong friend, Joan Miró, an artist whose work Calder greatly admired. From their first meeting in 1928 up until Calder’s death in 1976, the two artists were drawn to one another’s work and spurred on the other’s creative endeavors through a mutual passion for poetic expression and a desire to explore new realms of the unseen imagination. At a show of Calder’s new work in 1936 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, the headline of the review in the New York World Telegram declared emphatically: “Calder’s Mobiles are Like Living Miró Abstractions,” and went on to say how they were imbued not with the mere implied movement of Miró’s antennae-like line, but with actual physical plasticity and vitality.\nThe power of Caged Stone and Fourteen Dots is based on a fundamental understanding of the universe and its most elementary principles. Merging together concepts of motion and balance in perfect harmony, the linear and chromatic tension of the component parts recalls Calder’s boyhood fascination with the gaily painted cable cars of San Francisco as well as his early studies in engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology. The simple circular forms suspended here in a lyrical equilibrium of pure shapes and colors give the work its distinctive playful vitality and spectacular sense of weightlessness. Calder expanded the boundaries of sculpture with an unequivocal sense of playfulness and bonhomie. His mobiles were a means of approximating the freedom, mystery and joy of earthly existence, and he was the first sculptor of his generation to translate the modernist canon of abstract composition into three-dimensional space. His unwavering passion to bend the obdurate rules and static conventions governing his chosen practice, single-handedly liberated sculpture from its hitherto fixed and lifeless format.\nIncised with the artist's monogram on the largest white circular element


Painted sheet metal, wire rod and stone


Alexander Calder


This work is in very good condition. There are scattered nicks and losses to the original paint at the edges and arms of the wire and metal elements, as is to be expected for a work from this time period. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.


35 1/2 x 35 x 35 in. 90.2 x 90 x 90 cm.


Perls Galleries, New York Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1973) Sotheby's, New York, November 9, 2004, Lot 31 Private Collection Kukje Gallery, Seoul Private Collection, Seoul (acquired from the above in 2005) Acquired by the present owner from the above


Incised with the artist's monogram on the largest white circular element


1898 - 1976

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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