Naum Gabo

Model for the Esso Project, Radio City, New York


Not on display

Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Plastic and gold wire mesh
Object: 89 × 127 × 51 mm
Presented by the artist 1977

Display caption

Models were an essential stage in Gabo''s working practice. He usually began with drawings, then built models, which allowed him to test the different types of materials he might use. A comparison of the models for Monument for an Airport and Spiral Theme with the finished sculptures on display in this room demonstrates the precision of his enlargement process. Two of the models incorporate pieces of stone, an idea which emerged in 1930-1.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T02184 Model for the Esso Project, Radio City, New York 1949

Not inscribed
Plastic and gold wire mesh, 3 1/2 x 5 x 2 (8.9 x 12.7 x 5)
Presented by the artist 1977
Exh: Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (77), dated 1949-52
Lit: James Johnson Sweeney, 'Construction unconstructible?' in Art News, L, March 1951, pp.34-5, 61-2

This was an early model made as part of Gabo's project for the decoration of the Esso Building in the Rockefeller Center, New York. Gabo was commissioned to design sculptures to decorate the blind rear walls of two lift shafts facing the two entrances to the building on 51st Street and 52nd Street. For the 52nd Street side he designed a panel with a central construction whose compositional lines suggest a perspective recession, and with revolving doors on either side surmounted by forms which turned with the doors. For the 51st Street side, where the space was narrower, he devised what James Johnson Sweeney has described as 'a vertical element which accents the high narrow panel, and built round this swinging forms which draw the side walls into unity with the end wall through their rhythms'. The artist said that this particular model was for the construction on the 51st Street side, not the side with the revolving doors (information from Mrs Gabo, 27 July 1977), though it shows his ideas at an early stage and the final design was rather different.

The project was unfortunately abandoned, largely on the grounds of expense, and the artist afterwards presented the four principal models to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1953. They are listed in The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Bulletin, XX, Summer 1953, p.43 with the date 1949.

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.252-3, reproduced p.252

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