Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Surrealist Sculpture

December 11, 2012

Large works of sculpture by Alexander Calder and Jean Arp can cost many millions of dollars. There are smaller works of art by both artists that were made in multiples (i.e. bronze sculptures) that the artists themselves did not touch, but nonetheless are original works duly authorized and sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But many people are not aware that there are unique, hand-made sculptures made on a very intimate scale that can be purchased for a fraction of these other works.

For example, the Calder brooch (Lot 281) and Arp brooch (Lot 280) are both unique, have never traded hands, and were created for very close friends of the artists: Calder’s for his next-door neighbor on the occasion of her 40th birthday, and Arp’s for the daughter of his friend and fellow artist Marcel Janco, Dada co-founder. Each of these miniature sculptures is an exceptional exercise in Surrealism, and stand alone as works of art from two masters of this genre.

Here is the essay published in our December 16th auction catalogue:

Primarily recognized for their innovations in Surrealist sculpture, Jean Arp (1886-1966) and Alexander Calder (1898-1976) employed some of the same techniques used to create their large-scale works to produce stunning pieces of biomorphic jewelry. More than just a departure from abstract paintings and mobiles, jewelry, for Arp and Calder, was regarded as fine art, a diminutive exploration of sculptural forms. Calder even preferred to exhibit his jewelry alongside his sculptures, suggesting a “non-hierarchical approach much in keeping with the way Bauhaus teachers would instruct compositional principles that were as easily applied to painting as to tapestry.” In his brooch from 1957, a single piece of silver is bent and twisted into his characteristic spirals, and the surface – undulating hills and valleys of texture – bears the same hammer strikes of a large sculpture. It assumes new life and movement the moment it is mounted on the wearer. Likewise, Jean Arp’s brooch (circa 1945) began as a flat piece of metal. He cut holes and shaped the edges, elevating the material to a three-dimensional phantasm poised for spontaneous motion. Arp gave this piece as a gift to Josine Janco, daughter of artist and Dada co-founder Marcel Janco.

Baldwin, Neil. Man Ray: American Artist. New York: Man Ray Trust, 1988. Print.
Rosenthal, Mark. “Sculpture to Jewelry.” Calder Jewelry. Ed. Alexander S.C. Rower. New York: Calder Foundation, 2007. pp 51-67. Print.
Tait, Liv. “Man Ray, Museo d’Arte Lugano.” The Tait Global., 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

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