Naum Gabo

Model for the Baltimore ‘Construction Suspended in Space’


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Not on display
Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Object: 216 x 51 x 51 mm
Presented by the artist 1977

Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T02182 Model for the Baltimore 'Construction suspended in Space' 1950

Not inscribed
Plastic in two sections, 8 1/2 x 2 x 2 (21.5 x 5.1 x 5.1) and 1/16 x 5 1/2 x 4 1/8 (0.2 x 14 x 10.4)
Presented by the artist 1977
Exh: Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (74)
Lit: Baltimore Museum of Art News, XV, October 1951, pp.1-2; ibid., November 1951, p.51; ibid., December 1951, pp.3-4; Naum Gabo, 'A New Construction for Baltimore' in Magazine of Art, XLV, 1952, pp.71-4

A model for the hanging construction 'Construction suspended in Space' made for a new wing of the Baltimore Museum of Art, donated by Mrs Saidie A. May as a centre for children's art activities. The site is a three-story stairwell where the stairs provide the only means of communication between the three floors. Gabo was asked originally to make a kinetic sculpture, but decided that this would lead to interference with movement up and down the stairs and that it would be better to make a sculpture which might actually take advantage of the movement of the spectators. As he wrote in the Magazine of Art:

'In effect, the spiral movement of the ascending or descending spectator, if it is incorporated in the conception of the structure, would give an imaginary movement to the sculpture ... Apart from that, I had to take into account the fact that the observer would inevitably be looking at the work not only from a series of points along a horizontal plane, but also from all the points along the vertical axis of the spiral periphery of the stairs as well.'

The sculpture was commissioned by Mrs May and the formal contract was executed on 19 May 1950. There is a letter dated 3 November 1950 approving the model presented by Gabo (presumably this work, T02182), but the execution of the full-scale piece was delayed by difficulty in obtaining certain of the materials and the official unveiling did not take place until 4 November 1951. Both the correspondence and the contract leave no doubt that Gabo executed the full-scale work himself, and that he personally supervised its installation. The finished sculpture is in aluminium (baked black), plastic, gold wire, bronze mesh and steel wire, and is suspended 15ft (about 4.5m) into the stairwell. It consists of two sections, a hanging form and a form attached to the ceiling, which appear as one when viewed from below. Although Gabo had designed several monumental works earlier in his career, this was the first he was ever given an opportunity to carry out.

(Information about the Baltimore construction was kindly provided by Brenda Richardson).

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, p.253, reproduced p.253

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