So, if you had been rummaging through the goods at a flea market and happened upon this piece, would you have bought it? Would the seller’s $15 price proved irresistible? How about the design, so contemporary looking, though it was actually designed around 1940?
For the lucky owner, it proved a must-have. Not knowing anything about it, they plunked down the money and later discovered this to be a rare silver Alexander Calder piece. When it goes up for sale at Christie’s September 26, it is estimated to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000. Based on recent past auctions, I’m guessing this may go even higher. A Calder piece auctioned by Christies in 2011 sold for $506,500, with the same presale estimate. It’s a truly spectacular find, in all aspects. It’s worth downloading the catalogue as there are several other wonderful pieces of Calder for sale (among other fabulous items).
From the Christie’s catalogue for the upcoming auction, some fascinating history and perspective on this piece: “Alexander Calder’s spectacular necklace, a classic work of the early 1940s, is as extraordinary in provenance as it is in aesthetic and design. The whereabouts of this important example were previously unknown until the discovery in the Atlantic Antic fair, the last known record of the work in the historic 1943 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The owner was unaware of the work’s remarkable origins until she saw a similar necklace on the cover of Philadelphia Weekly announcing the Philadelphia Art Museum’s exhibit, “Calder Jewelry.” After contacting the exhibition’s curator, Elisabeth Agro, she brought it to the Calder Foundation in New York, where it was registered in the archive.
With its refined swirls and light, graceful construction, the necklace derives from Calder’s years living in Paris, where he found inspiration in the late Bronze Age artifacts and African sculpture exhibited in local museums. Absorbing the iconography of ancient and exotic cultures, he transformed the motifs into his own, thoroughly modern spiral. According to his grandson, Calder “instinctively filtered forms patterns and symbols from organic sources and early societies into his pieces often connecting the wearier to something primal” (A.S.C. Rower, Calder Jewelry, exh. cat. Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, 2005, p. 17).
Though the necklace draws on the traditions of ancient and exotic cultures, its avant-garde design converges closely with the aesthetics and materials of the modern age: the work’s crisp geometric forms echo the designs of Art Deco, while its unpainted, bare surfaces champion the triumphs of industrial progress. Calder was against, however, mass manufacturing his
artwork, and instead he hand tooled each piece—preserving the hammer marks on metal surfaces to emphasize the connection
between the maker and his material.
Jewelry was perhaps the most personal of all his work, as they were made as individual gifts to family and friends.
Famous recipients included artists Joan Miró and GeorgiaO’Keefe, legendary art dealer Peggy Guggenheim, and actress Jeanne Moreau. This dazzling necklace, carefully assembled and adorned in Calder’s iconic motifs, suggests an equally captivating narrative—evermore so for its serendipitous discovery at a Brooklyn flea market.”