tag archives: christie’s

have you ever noticed that people are mesmerized by movement?

alexander calder: performing sculpture, an exhibition at the tate modern museum in london from 11 november 2015 – 3 april 2016, could be described as mesmerizing.  it’s the largest calder exhibition ever shown in great britain, with eleven galleries displaying approximately 100 works.

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alexander calder: performing sculpture | tate modern museum | london, united kingdom | 11 november 2015 – 3 april 2016

saint paul’s cathedral and the millenium bridge in the background

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

american sculptor, alexander calder (1898-1976), may be best known for transforming sculpture into a kinetic art form.

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | antennae with red and blue dots | hanging mobile | aluminum and steel wire | circa 1953

collection of the tate modern museum | london, united kingdom

photo credit (c) 2015 calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via BBC

his kinetic sculptures could also be described as performance art.

at the beginning of his career, calder gained fame, received introductions, and made friends through cirque calder, the miniature mechanical circus that he created and performed in paris and new york from 1926-1931.

calder’s friends included artists joan miró (1893-1983) and fernand léger (1881-1955), as well as composer edgard varèse (1883-1965).  my husband, bob, and i were captivated by calder’s three dimensional wire caricatures of them.

‘i think best in wire.’  -alexander calder

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | joan miró | wire | circa 1930

on loan from a private collection

photo credit courtesy of the calder foundation via the new centrist

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | varése | wire | 1930

on loan from the whitney museum of american art | new york, NY

photo credit (c) calder foundation via the whitney

Fernand Legersmall

alexander calder (1898-1976) | fernand léger | wire | 1930

on loan from a private collection

photo credit (c) calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via the arts desk

at the tate modern, the installation and the illumination capture the shadows cast by the suspended sculptures.

portraitsjoe humphrys tate photography

room 3 | alexander calder: performing sculpture | tate modern museum | london, united kingdom | 11 november 2015 – 3 april 2016

photo credit joe humphrys, tate photography / courtesy: calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via wallpaper

calder began creating abstract sculptures, most commonly made from wire and sheet metal, following a visit to the paris studio of dutch painter piet mondrian (1872-1944) in 1930.  he began suspending his abstract sculptures, and using airflow or touch, instead of mechanics or motorization, to generate movement.  another one of his friends, artist marcel duchamp (1887-1968), called calder’s suspensions mobiles, a pun on the french words for movement and motive.

like other viewers, bob and i were magnetized by the movement of the mobiles.

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room 9 | alexander calder: performing sculpture | tate modern museum | london, united kingdom | 11 november 2015 – 3 april 2016

photo credit joe humphrys, tate photography / courtesy: calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via wallpaper

some mobiles move silently.

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | snow flurry I | hanging mobile | painted steel sheet and steel wire | 1948

on loan from the collection of the museum of modern art | new york, NY

photo credit (c) 2016 calder foundation, new york / artists rights society (ARS), new york via MOMA

caldergamma1947c calder foundation

alexander calder (1898-1976) | gamma | hanging mobile | painted sheet metal and steel wire | 1947

on loan from the collection of jon a. shirley | seattle, WA

photo credit calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via wsj

while, the movement of other mobiles creates sound.

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | triple gong | hanging mobile | brass, sheet metal, wire and paint | circa 1948

on loan from the collection of the calder foundation | new york, NY

photo credit calder foundation, new york / art resource, new york / ARS, new york / DACS, london via wsj

does silence somehow seem more eloquent?

calder|black widow|1948|joe humphrys

alexander calder (1898-1976) | black widow | hanging mobile | wire and painted metal | circa 1948

on loan from the institute of architects of brazil | säo paulo, brazil

photo credit joe humphrys, tate photography / courtesy: calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via wallpaper

our visit to london conveniently coincided with the post war and contemporary art auctions, which prominently featured works by alexander calder.

the auction previews provided an opportunity to view calder’s hanging and standing mobiles more closely.

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | untitled | hanging mobile | painted sheet metal and wire | 1967

sold for £962,500 (US$ $1,396,588) | lot 2 | sale 11795 | post war and contemporary art evening auction | 11 february 2016 | christie’s king street | london, united kingdom

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | crag with yellow boomerang and red eggplant | standing mobile | painted sheet metal and wire | 1974

sold for £1,874,500 (US$ 2719,900) | lot 3 | sale 11795 | post war and contemporary art evening auction | 11 february 2016 | christie’s king street | london, united kingdom

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | the black mountain | oil on canvas | 1945

sold for £602,500 (US$ 874,228) | lot 1 | sale 11795 | post war and contemporary art evening auction | 11 february 2016 | christie’s king street | london, united kingdom

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

you could say that calder performed rather well…

christie’s new york is selling an extraordinary collection of chinese furniture.

 the collection of robert hatfield ellsworth | christie’s new york | 17-21 march 2015

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

the extraordinary collection of robert hatfield ellsworth includes not only chinese furniture, but also buddhist art, scholar’s objects, and contemporary paintings.

 

polychrome wood figure of a seated bodhisattva | china | song-jin dynasty (960-1234)

this sculpture greeted guests as they entered robert ellsworth’s apartment

sold for US$ 1,685,000 | christie’s new york | 17 march 2015 | sale 11418 | lot 58

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

as well as chinese bronzes, jades, and ceramics.

gilt bronze figure of a seated bear | china | western han dynasty (206 BCE-8 CE)

one of a set of four weights, used to anchor the corners of a bamboo seating mat

sold for US$ 2,853,000 | christie’s new york | 17 march 2015 | sale 11418 | lot 1

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

along with japanese, himalayan, indian, and southeast asian art.

 stable with fine horses | one of a pair of six panel screens | japan | edo period (17th century)

sold for US$ 509,000 | christie’s new york | 17 march 2015 | sale 11418 | lot 45

photo credit christie’s | wsj

the ellsworth collection is the largest private collection of asian art ever sold at auction.  the 2000 object collection will be sold during six live auctions and one on line auction held from 17-21 march 2015.

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photo credits christie’s

i was thrilled that my recent trip to new york coincided with the auction preview, which is, not surprisingly, generating unprecedented crowds.  the auctions also seem to be generating unprecedented results.

robert ellsworth (1929-2014) was a prominent american asian art collector, dealer, and scholar.  he sold asian art from his 22 room new york apartment, located on fifth avenue near the metropolitan museum of art.  as an asian art dealer, ellsworth has been credited with establishing new collecting categories, such as ancient chinese jades, or chinese furniture from the ming (1368-1644) and qing (1644-1911) dynasties.  his clients included major museums, such as the met, the museum of fine arts, boston, the cleveland museum of art, the philadelphia museum of art, and the nelson-atkins museum.  plus, important private collectors, such as john d. rockefeller III, who donated his asian art collection to the asia society.

ellsworth’s publications include chinese furniture:  hardwood examples of the ming and early ch’ing dynasties, which is considered one of the chinese furniture reference books.

some of the most important pieces of chinese furniture in the ellsworth collection are huanghuali wood tables and chairs.

chinese furniture is usually categorized according to construction technique.  chinese tables usually have either corner legs or recessed legs.  corner leg tables can be either unwaisted or waisted.

huanghuali waisted rectangular corner-leg games table | china | ming dynasty (17th century)

robert ellsworth received this table as a 60th birthday gift

sold for US$ 1,205,000 | christie’s new york | 17 march 2015 | sale 11418 | lot 44

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace, christie’s, lisa walsh | innerspace, and christie’s

chinese games tables are usually square.  this table is exceptional because it is the only known example of a rectangular games table with drawers.  the removable top and game boards are also unusual.

 recessed leg tables can have either plain or cloud shaped spandrels.

huanghuali recessed leg painting table | china | ming dynasty (17th century)

sold for US$ 3,525,000 | christie’s new york | 17 march 2015 | sale 11418 | lot 42

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
this painting table is exceptional because of the massive timber, generous width, and early date.

 huanghuali recessed leg table | china | ming dynasty (17th century)

sold for US$ 1,565,000 | christie’s new york | 17 march 2015 | sale 11418 | lot 46

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace, christie’s, and lisa walsh | innerspace

chinese armchairs usually have either rectangular or round backs with either protruding or continuous crest rails.

pair of huanghuali ‘four corner exposed’ official’s hat armchairs | china | ming dynasty (17th century)

sold for US$ 2,045,000 | christie’s new york | 18 march 2015 | sale 11419 | lot 121

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace and christie’s


pair of huanghuali bamboo-form continuous horseshoe-back armchairs | china | late ming-early qing dynasty (17th-early 18th century)

sold for US$ 2,629,000 | christie’s new york | 17 march 2015 | sale 11418 | lot 47

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace, lisa walsh | innerspace, and christie’s

this pair of horseshoe back armchairs is exceptional because the chairs have continuous back rails, which are quite fragile, and therefore extremely rare.  the round members, undulating aprons, and wrap around stretchers emulate bamboo, which was a less expensive material than hardwood.

a set of four huanghuali horseshoe-back armchairs | china | ming dynasty (17th century)

sold for US$ 9,685,000 | christie’s new york | 17 march 2015 | sale 11418 | lot 41

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
several unusual features distinguish this set of four armchairs from other horsehoe-back armchairs.

huanghuali horseshoe-back armchair | china | qing dynasty (17th-18th century)

sold for US$ 581,000 | christie’s new york | 18 march 2015 | sale 11419 | lot 139

photo credit christie’s

the extremely elegant curve of the crest rails.  the exceptional sweeping hooks of the handles.  the unusual three-part pierced backsplats.  and, the sublime grain of the wood, which suggests a mountain landscape.

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

do you think that these features make the four armchairs worth US$ 9,000,000?

the controversy is over.

two of the twelve bronze zodiac animal sculptures that once surrounded the fountain in the gardens of the old summer palace (yuanmingyuan), a qing dynasty (1644-1911) imperial retreat near beijing, have been returned to china by french billionaire francois-henri pinault.

the zodiac sculptures were not only the subject of circle of animals/zodiac heads, a public outdoor sculpture exhibition by chinese artist/activist, ai weiwei, but also, the subject of chinese zodiac, a jackie chan action movie.

ai weiwei | circle of animals/zodiac heads

exhibited 2 may-15 july 2011 | pulitzer fountain | new york, NY

photo credit arrested motion

christie’s sold the the two sculptures for 31.4 million euros (US$40 million) during the february 2009 auction of the collection yves saint laurent et pierre berge.  but, the buyer, a chinese national, withheld payment in protest.  so, the two sculptures remained in the collection of pierre berge until they were acquired by the pinault family.

bronze rabbit and rat zodiac animal sculptures | from the fountain at the yuanmingyuan | qianlong period (r. 1736-1795)

collection yves saint laurent et pierre berge | christie’s paris | 23-25 february 2009 | sale 1209 | lots 678 and 677

photo credits les cahiers d’alain truong
the pinault family controls kering, the french luxury brand group formerly known as ppr, which also owns christie’s.

coincidently, christie’s was recently granted a license to become the first independently operated international auction house in china. (the chinese operations of christie’s compititor, sotheby’s, are a joint venture with state-owned beijing gehua cultural development group.)

could this be a convenient coincidence?

click here to read related previous posts, new york times, wall street journal, and financial times articles.

attending all of the auction previews at christie’s, sotheby’s, or bonham’s is one of the things that my husband, bob, and i both miss about living in london.  our recent visit to london coincided with post war and contemporary art week.  so, of course we couldn’t resist attending the auction previews in the evening, after work and before dinner.

instead of neo-expressionist or figurative painters, such as basquiat or bacon, many of my favorite artists, such as cy twombly, are abstract expressionists.  somehow, the freedom and spontaneity of their work is really appealing.  if i could have bid on anything, it would have been twombly’s calligraphy drawings at christie’s, king street.

cy twombly (1928-2011) | untitled | gouache and wax crayon on card | 1970

sold for GBP 577,250 | US$ 906,283

post war and contemporary art evening auction | 14 feb 2012 | christie’s | london, king street | sale 8052 lot 24

photo credit christie’s

cy twombly (1928-2011) | untitled | gouache and wax crayon on card | 1970

sold for GBP 713,250 | US$ 1,119,803

post war and contemporary art evening auction | 14 feb 2012 | christie’s | london, king street | sale 8052 lot 47

photo credit christie’s

he created them at the same time as his blackboard series, which became famous for blurring the lines between drawing and painting.

cy twombly | untitled | gouache and wax crayon on paper | 1969

cy twombly-works from the sonnabend collection | 7 feb-17 mar 2012 | eykyn-maclean | london, united kingdom

photo credit (c) cy twombly foundation

eykyn-maclean gallery is showing cy twombly-works from the sonnabend collection from 7 february-17 march 2012—one of the many museum quality commercial exhibits that accompany the february impressionst, modern, post war, and contemporary art auctions in london.

if you could, which would you choose?  a cy twombly calligraphy or blackboard drawing?

cy twombly blackboard drawing above the bar in the apartment of aerin lauder zinterhofer | new york, NY

photo credit francois halard