Calder Mobiles Confiscated From Local Frenchman As Counterfeits

Alexander Calder mobiles brought to Paris for valuation by local Frenchman seized by Calder Foundation as fakes

French authorities have seized a collection of nine mobiles, supposedly created by Alexander Calder, on the suspicion that they are fakes. The pieces, dating from the 1970s, came to light after they were brought to the Tajan auction house in Paris to be valued, by an as yet unnamed retired man from Tours in central France. The man claims to have been a personal acquaintance of Calder during the period he spent living in the Tours region and that the artist gave him the nine small works as a gift in exchange for helping with the construction of some of his sculptural work between 1969 and 1975. It is well known that Calder made a habit of giving small mobiles or gouaches to townspeople who offered their services to him, but whether these works fall into that category remains unclear.

The man reportedly kept the mobiles stored in newspaper at his home for over 30 years, until deciding to have them valued and authenticated in Paris in 2008. Upon their presentation, the artist’s daughters Mary and Sandra Calder, representing the Calder Foundation, had them seized by the authorities and filed a law suit against their owner. The Foundation claims that the man cannot prove that the works are genuine since they are not signed by the artist. He was officially charged with forgery in 2010 but as yet the case has not come to court. This, according to Marc Morin, the lawyer for the defendant, is largely due to the fact that there is no independent expert who could possibly verify the authenticity of the mobiles (Calder himself died in 1976). Unless a suitable method of verification can be agreed on, it seems the situation will remain something of a stalemate. If the works were genuine, they would be worth approximately €2m. And the Calder Foundation has more reason than most to proceed with caution: in 1999, it proclaimed a sculpture of a hanging glass dove to be counterfeit and had the work destroyed. It was later discovered that the work was in fact genuine and had been listed in a 1955 catalogue of Calder’s work. Words: Maddie Bates © 2011 ArtLyst

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