Constructivist Ballet
Constructivist Ballet c.1940, Naum Gabo, Tate Archive

For the last three years the Tate Archive team has been working on research, cataloguing and interpretation of the extensive family archive of Naum Gabo (1890-1977) - the leader of international constructive art movement and a pioneer of abstract sculpture. This unique collection (TGA 9313, TGA 9314, TGA 200734) includes a most interesting variety of items - documents, private diaries and correspondence in four European languages: English, French, German and Russian,  photographs and stereo slides, drawings and 3D models. Works by Gabo from Tate collection are on view at Tate Britain and Tate Liverpool and Gabo’s  bronze ‘Model for Arch No. 2’ (TGA 9313/4/4/35) could be viewed at the Tate Archive 40th anniversary display ‘40 Degrees of Separation’ (room 18). From 29 November 2010 the models from the Gabo archive were shown to a wide audience for the first time at Tate Britain (room 8). Gabo’s three-dimensional models, card and plastic templates, drawings and sketches give an insight of Gabo’s unique creative method. His ability to visualise the form and structure of his constructions prior to the appearance of any preliminary drawings lead to creation of some of the most striking images in the history of Modernist sculpture. Gabo’s talent was multifaceted and I would like to tell you more about his personal qualities through one of my favourite items in his archive - a ‘Constructivist Ballet’ (1941-46) TGA 200734/3/3. This item is a toy created by the sculptor for his only daughter Nina, born in the midst of the turbulent years of the World War II. When there were no toys and games available for children to play with Gabo used simple materials from his studio to give his little daughter a precious toy. A plastic semi-spherical dome with some tiny off-cuts of coloured plastic underneath was transformed into miniature theatre stage with ballet-dancers as soon as Gabo rubbed its surface with woollen cloth. The energy of static electricity would make the ‘dancers’ jump and move in circles as by magic. The dancers were named after chess pieces although they don’t resemble them. Do you know any other artists making toys in their spare time? If yes, share it with us, we would love to hear more from you. Over 200 photographs of the items from the Gabo archive are also available in the ‘Gabo Archive’ microsite. TGA 200734/3/3

Written by Natalia Sidlina 



What a good idea to make known to the public this talented artist and his poetic universe ,as shown in this fine article. This exhibition encourages me to take a Eurostar ticket very soon...