Menzies Art Brands

Lot 24. Robert Klippel


James Mollison AO, the founding Director of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, always thought of Klippel as the most extraordinary manipulator of three-dimensional form he had ever seen. Ken Scarlett, the author and respected Australian sculpture scholar, rightly considers Klippel to be Australias greatest Twentieth Century sculptor.

Robert Klippels much-quoted mantra make it new encapsulates his life-long view that Modern art had to create rather than re-create. For Klippel, this was the crux of Modernism - the creation of new man-made additions to Nature.

Klippels sculptural construction Opus 267 of 1970 is both rare and unique and forms part of a significant series of sculptures prompted by the reductions of three-dimensional form and the minimalist tendencies to be found in the art of Sydney of the Seventies.

The sculpture is documented in the definitive Robert Klippel Catalogue Raisonn, as compiled by Deborah Edwards in 2002 for the major retrospective exhibition of the artists works at Sydneys Art Gallery of New South Wales. Edwards is its Senior Curator of Australian Art and author of the scholarly publication Robert Klippel (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2002) as well as numerous journal articles. Additionally, the sculpture is documented and illustrated in the standard book on the artist by his life-long friend James Gleeson.

Klippels Opus 267 of 1970 is a notable example of a stylistic transition through the artists contemporaneous simplifications of constructed forms and the use of selected machine parts in the early Seventies. The actual physical form of Klippels Opus 267 was most probably suggested by the shapes of H-shaped gas heater flues and related signal towers and antennae as seen during his train trip back to London from a short visit to Cornwall on 1 April 1948. His personal notes of the journey supply the following corroboration:

the variety of constructional elements which are before our eyes signals, towers, telegraph poles, chimneys, cranes, masts, radar equipment, street lamp-posts, step ladders, water tanks, windmills, dredges, church spires, lighthouses, ventilators, etc., etc., all vertical, man-made a relationship existing with the organic trees and men I cant see why an artist cant use such exciting elements in his work but no! practically everybody says that the figure is the only thing for sculpture. It is incredible!1

Gleesons major text also makes a specific reference to Klippels Opus 267:

Opus 267 is somewhere between the signal and the radio tower. It is more limited in its suggestion of movement. The wheel is again significant as a possible source of motion, but the forms are fixed in their verticality and the only conceivable movement would be an upward extension of the aerials at the top of the tower.2

In this regard, Klippels sculptural construction Opus 267 is very closely related to significant works such as his Opus 263 (Signal) of 1970 in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and Opus 269, Opus 270 and Opus 27, all of 1970, in the renowned Mr. and Mrs. Crebbin collection in Sydney.


1. Robert Klippel, 1 April 1948, cited in Gleeson, James, Robert Klippel, Bay Books, Sydney, 1983, p.45
2. Gleeson, James, Robert Klippel, Bay Books, Sydney, 1983, p.341


Edwards, D., Robert Klippel: Large Wood Sculptures and Collages, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1995
Edwards, D., Robert Klippel, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2002
Gleeson, J., Robert Klippel, Bay Books, Sydney, 1983
Hughes, R., Art in Vogue. Robert Hughes Writes on Robert Klippel, Vogue Australia, Sydney, November-December, 1963
Hughes, R., Robert Klippel, Art and Australia, vol. 2, no.1, Sydney, May, 1964
Lynn, E., When Whimsy is Strangled by Scrap Metal Monumentality, The Bulletin, Sydney, 1 March, 1969
Scarlett, K., Australian Sculptors, Nelson, Melbourne, 1980
Scarlett, K., Robert Klippel: Australias Greatest Sculptor, Sculpture, vol.23, no.3, April, 2004
Wach, K., Robert Klippel: The American and European Years, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zrich, 2013
Wach, K., Robert Klippel: Opus 995 of 1998, Galerie Gmurzynska, Basel Art Fair Miami, Florida, 2013

Associate Professor Ken Wach
Dip. Art; T.T.T.C.; Fellowship RMIT; MA; PhD,
Emeritus Principal Research Fellow and
Head of the School of Creative Arts,
The University of Melbourne

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