Calder sculpture auctioned for $1M to fund Berkshire Museum's 'New Vision' project

Alexander Calder's 1932 sculpture "Double Arc and Sphere" was auctioned off by Sotheby's in New York City on Wednesday. It is from an important moment in the career of Calder, a part-time resident of Richmond and a third-generation sculptor.

Alexander Calder's "Double Arc and Sphere" sold for $1 million hammer price Wednesday at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby's in New York City.

The motorized sculpture, executed with wood, wire, rod and paint, had been expected to sell for $2 million to $3 million. Sotheby's reported a total sales price of $1,215,000, including the buyer's premium.

"Double Arc and Sphere" was not the only Calder sculpture to sell below the estimated price. A sculpture, "Untitled," from 1968 sold for $750,000 hammer price, with a final sale price of $915,000. It was expected to fetch $1 million to $1.5 million. Several of Calder's hanging mobiles, which the artist is best known for, sold either within the range or just above the estimated sales price.

The "mobile" sculpture, one of 13 works being sold by the Berkshire Museum to pay for its "New Vision" project, is from an important moment in the career of Calder, a part-time resident of Richmond and a third-generation sculptor.

According to the Sotheby's catalog, the work is "A historic exemplar of the artist's career-defining output of the early 1930s, the present work is one of a limited group of motorized sculptures the artist produced in these transformative years; the earliest iterations of Calder's career-long investigation of the modernist canon within three-dimensional space, it was these intricately mechanized constructions that first prompted Duchamp to describe Calder's sculptures as 'mobiles.'"

But its significance in the Berkshires is directly tied to the museum and its first director, Laura Bragg, who not only oversaw the purchase of two Calder works in 1933, but also included the artist in a show of emerging artists at the museum, which included the work of a young George L.K. Morris of Lenox.

Bragg would be one of the first American museum directors to recognize the importance of Calder's works. And the two "mobiles" purchased by the museum in 1933, "Double Arc and Sphere" (also known as "The Arc and The Quadrant") and "Dancing Torpedo Shape," are among the first, if not the first, works by Calder to be purchased by a museum.

It is the third Berkshire Museum piece to be sold this week. On Monday, Henry Moore's "Three Seated Women" and Francis Picabia's "Force Comique" fetched $240,000 and $920,000 hammer prices, respectively, at Sotheby's.