Kelly Crow put out a pot-stirring report this week in the Wall Street Journal. It’s true that the newspaper likes to dramatize events. This is the Murdoch legacy at the WSJ. But this comparative is a bit over much:
During the recession, Calder’s prices ticked upward as collectors sought pieces that were easy to identify and resell in the global marketplace, some trading privately for as much as $35 million apiece, dealers said. Even so, Calder’s works look cheap compared with those of peers like Alberto Giacometti, whose bronzes have topped $100 million.
It is a bit silly to judge the very strong Calder market by whether there has been a top trophy price that makes headlines, let alone a price at the $100 million level. Crow is right to compare Calder to Henry Moore, another auction mainstay whose work has been gaining traction and recently set new high prices (though far from the Giacometti, Picasso, Cézanne level.) What’s not mentioned here, and is surely of great importance given the need for liquidity and volume for an artist to reach the highest levels of value, is a discussion of how much work Calder made. He rivals Picasso in sheer volume.
Here’s Crow’s rundown of what’s on offer this May in New York, led by Christie’s Lily of Force estimated at $8 to $12 million:
Collectors have always paid a premium for standing and hanging Calder mobiles from the 1940s and ’50s, particularly those with dozens of dangling parts that shiver like leaves or fish at the slightest breeze. Red remains his most coveted color, but hues like white are also popular. Christie’s is asking at least $3.5 million for “Snow Flurry,” a 1950 white mobile that comes from the estate of Eliot Noyes, the Harvard Five architect who, with Philip Johnson, championed the no-frills architectural movement known as the International Style. The Noyes estate is also offering an untitled red mobile with scaly shapes that is priced to sell for at least $3 million. Christie’s wants at least $4 million for “The Red of Saché,” a 1954 hanging mobile. “Blue Flower, Red Flower,” a 1975 multicolored mobile, is priced to sell for at least $1 million.Rival Sotheby’s has four Calders on its auction agenda, including “Sumac VI,” a red mobile from 1952 that is priced to sell May 9 for $2.5 million or more.