Alexander Calder’s Mobile Could Fetch $14.5 Million at Auction

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A 1959 mobile by American sculptor Alexander Calder will be offered as a highlight of Phillips 20th-century and contemporary art sale in New York in May, with a presale estimate between US$10.5 million and US$14.5 million.

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The mobile, or a kinetic sculpture powered by air currents, is from Calder’s (1898-1976) famed Snow Flurry series, which he created from 1948 to 1959 based on the snowfall at his home in Roxbury, Conn.

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These all-white mobiles are marked by a large number of elements, all circular and many of which are different sizes, according to Robert Manley, deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th-century and contemporary art at Phillips.

“The cascading shapes and pure color get smaller the further they are from the center, giving the work a magical, optical effect of a snow storm or a starry night,” Manley said in an email statement.

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Ten out of 11 of the Snow Flurry mobiles are held in museums across America and Europe, according to Phillips.

The one offered for sale had been in the collection of Francois Pinault, founder of the French luxury group Kering, for more than a decade. The current consignor, a private American collector, acquired the piece nearly 30 years ago, Manley said.

The mobile’s title, 39=50, comes with an interesting story. In 1961, Calder’s close friend, Paris-based collector Peter Bellew, requested a mobile with 50 white elements to celebrate his wife’s 50th birthday. The sculptor didn’t have one, so he gave this one with 39 elements to Bellew, according to Phillips.

The mobile could become the most expensive Snow Flurry example sold at auction. In 2012, Snow Flurry,1950, sold for US$10.4 million, the highest price for a hanging mobile at the time, Phillips said.

“The artist’s market has increased exponentially since that sale. It’s one of the last opportunities to acquire a masterwork of this series,” Manley said.

The work will be offered at the auction house’s evening sale on May 18. The top lot of this sale is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s
Untitled1982, with a presale estimate of US$70 million.

Both the mobile 39=50 and Basquiat’s Untitled will be exhibited in Asia ahead of the auction.


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