Alexander Calder
Four Big Dots, 1963

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Four Big Dots
Artist name
Alexander Calder
Date created
enamel on sheet metal with steel wire
29 in. × 113 in. × 113 in. (73.66 cm × 287.02 cm × 287.02 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
T. B. Walker Foundation Fund purchase
© Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

How Calder invented mobiles

Show TranscriptHide Transcript



In 1932, Alexander Calder wrote, “Why must art be static? You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an entirely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion.



It is hard to imagine that the mobile actually was invented, the idea of the mobile is now so ubiquitous.



Curator Gary Garrels.




We see mobiles in many forms everywhere, but this was actually invented by Alexander Calder in Paris in the thirties. He was influenced by the Surrealists and their interest in chance; that we do not have total rational control of our thinking or of our experience in life. Calder was interested in how sculpture might give a voice to that. And by making the mobile, there are a set vocabulary of forms and possibilities of certain combinations and shapes, the way the piece relates to space. But on the other hand, it’s indeterminate; that the elements can move freely from the influence of air currents.



There was no name for such a thing—a sculpture set loose in space—free to move with each passing breeze. So Calder asked his friend, artist Marcel Duchamp, what he should call them. Duchamp’s answer? “Mobile,” the French word for “movable” as well as “motive.” Duchamp and Calder loved puns and double-entendres. “Motive” suggested that a sculpture might have a mind of its own.

Read MoreCollapse

Other Works by Alexander Calder

See other works by Alexander Calder

Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to confirm it will be on view.

Only a portion of SFMOMA's collection is currently online, and the information presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify collection holdings and artwork information. If you are interested in receiving a high resolution image of an artwork for educational, scholarly, or publication purposes, please contact us at copyright@sfmoma.org.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.