Naum Gabo

Model for ‘Column’


Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Cellulose nitrate
Object: 143 x 95 x 95 mm
Presented by the artist 1977

Not on display

Display caption

Many of Gabo's sculptures first appeared as tiny models. They were often projects for monumental public schemes, rarely achieved, in which sculpture and architecture came together. His proposal that Monument for an Airport could be used to advertise Imperial Airways, as either a desk display or an outdoor sculpture, was never realised. Model for 'Torsion', however, was eventually translated into a large fountain outside St Thomas' Hospital in London. Gabo's increasing concern, from the late 1930s, with the aesthetic aspect of his work at the expense of the industrial can be seen in Model for 'Construction in Space "Crystal"'.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T02167 Model for 'Column' 1920-1

Not inscribed
Celluloid and plastic, 5 5/8 x 3 3/4 x 3 3/4 (14.4 x 9.4 x 9.4)
Presented by the artist 1977
Exh: Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (17, repr.)
Lit: Herbert Read and Leslie Martin, Gabo: Constructions, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings (London 1957), note between pls.25 and 26, and p.183

A model for the column 104cm high in plastic, wood and metal which belonged to the Addison Gallery of American Art at Andover, Massachusetts, from 1949 to 1952 (until exchanged for another work), and which is now in the Guggenheim Museum, New York. Gabo wrote to the Addison Gallery on 13 March 1949: 'I don't know whether I need to emphasise that this work of mine is of great importance not only to my own development, but it can be historically proved that it is a cornerstone in the whole development of contemporary architecture. It should be noticed that the work was conceived in the winter of 1920-1, as a tiny model, and executed in the winter of 1922-3 in its big form'. T02167 is presumably the tiny model referred to.

After making the large version, Gabo also made three models in plastic about 25.4cm high which belong to Sir Leslie Martin, Cambridge, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, and Nina S. Gabo, London. The piece now at Yale was bought by the Société Anonyme from the artist c.1927-9. Then, many years later, the discovery that suitable glass was now made by Pilkington's made it practicable for him in 1975 to construct two enlarged versions 194cm high in stainless steel, glass and perspex, including one for the Louisiana Museum at Humlebaek in Denmark. Whereas the Tate's model has a red base, the bases of the others are either black or (in the case of Nina Gabo's version) stainless steel.

In a note on this work published in Read and Martin, op. cit., Gabo declared:

'From the very beginning of the Constructive Movement it was clear to me that a constructed sculpture, by its very method and technique, brings sculpture very near to architecture. The "Project for a Radio Station" which I did in the winter of 1919-20, and Tatlin's model for the 3rd International done a year earlier, indicate the trend of our thoughts at that time. My works of this time, up to 1924 ..., are all in the search for an image which would fuse the sculptural element with the architectural element into one unit.

'I consider this Column the culmination of that search.'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.236-7, reproduced p.236