Is the Delaware Art Museum Selling This Calder Mobile Next?

Alexander Calder, Poisson Volant (Flying Fish) (1957), recently sold for $26 milllion at Christie's. Photo: courtesy Christie's.

Alexander Calder‘s Black Crescent has been deinstalled from the space where it once hung in the Delaware Art Museum‘s East Court, fueling speculation that the mobile has been chosen as one of four artworks to be sold by the cash-strapped museum, reports Delaware Online.

As artnet News reported back in March, the museum, which owes $19.8 million in bond debt after a 2005 expansion and renovation, announced that it had explored every possible alternative, and the only way to keep the museum open was to sell artwork from the collection.

Museum CEO Mike Miller refused to either confirm or deny that the institution was looking to sell the Calder. “I can’t say whether it’s gone or not,” he told Delaware Online. The sculpture no longer appears in the museum’s online database.

The mobile, purchased by the museum in 1961, is one of two works in the collection by Calder, the other being an untitled lithograph from 1972. The market for Calder has been strong in recent years, with a 1957 sculpture, Poisson Volant (Flying Fish), more than doubling its high estimate with a sale price of $26 million at Christie’s in May.

Also quietly removed from display and online catalogue listings in the past few months is Winslow Homer’s Milking Time. Like the Calder, the museum purchased the painting in the 1960s. Allegedly, it will be initially offered to private buyers.

Christie’s London will offer the first Delaware artwork to be deaccessioned at auction on June 17. The pre-Raphaelite work, William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil, is expected to fetch as much at $13.4 million. The painting was featured on the cover of the catalogue for the Victorian, pre-Raphaelite, and British Impressionist art auction.

If the museum can raise sufficient funds by only selling three works, says Miller, they may not have to select a fourth piece for the widely condemned fire sale (see artnet News report about threatened sanctions from the Association of Art Museum Directors). The institution has promised not to sell any pieces that were donations.

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