Alexander Calder. Josephine Baker (III). Paris, c. 1927

Alexander Calder

Josephine Baker (III)

Paris, c. 1927

Steel wire
39 x 22 3/8 x 9 3/4" (99 x 56.6 x 24.5 cm)
Gift of the artist
Object number
© 2016 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture
This work is not on view.
Alexander Calder has 85 works online.
There are 1,531 sculptures online.

Calder first gained public recognition and acclaim for wire sculptures he made in Paris in the late 1920s. "I think best in wire," he once commented. Known for carrying a roll of wire over his shoulder and a pair of pliers in his pocket, Calder bent, pinched, and twisted strands of wire to fashion this distinctive tribute to Josephine Baker, one of the most celebrated performers of her day. Wire's appeal, Calder explained, is that it "moves of its own volition . . . jokes and teases," is "deliberately tantalizing," and "goes off into wild scrolls and tight tendrils"—a description that suits this exuberant portrait particularly well. Calder's imaginative "drawings in space," as he referred to them, delighted the public and led Parisian critics to dub him "The King of Wire." While Calder eventually dedicated himself to abstract art, wire's flexibility served as a critical catalyst for his lifelong interest in motion and in the drama of shadows—as this buoyant portrait of Josephine Baker makes evident.

Gallery label from Focus: Alexander Calder, 2007

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
The artist
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist, 1966

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