NO. 667(B), 1987

Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2008

Robert Klippel

(1920 - 2001)
NO. 667(B), 1987


166.0 cm height

edition: 1/6

signed, titled, dated and numbered on base: RK. No667. ‘87.
1/6 Meridian Foundry mark on base

$40,000 - 60,000

Private collection, Sydney
Private collection, Melbourne


Edwards, D., Robert Klippel: A Catalogue Raisonne of Sculpture, CD–Rom accompanying Edwards, D., Robert Klippel, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2002, No. 667 (illus. another example)

Catalogue text

With his singular vision, extraordinary inventiveness of form and unwavering dedication to his private quest for a spiritually relevant aesthetic, Robert Klippel stands alone in the annals of twentieth-century art as one of Australia's most intuitive and original sculptors. From the exquisite surrealist works of the 1940s to the energised junk sculptures of the 1960s, the delicate miniatures and lyrical works on paper to the monumental assemblages, his vast and extremely diverse oeuvre has consistently been inspired by the intricacies of both natural and built environments. Thus juxtaposing organic and mechanical, chance and intent, internal and external, science and religion, his art embodies not so much reconciliation or balance, but rather, as Deborah Edwards observes, 'the more subtle desire to forge a new, sometimes irrational, precarious, unforeseen and ultimately delicate equilibrium between his sense of a permanent order and the flux of the modern condition.'1

Derived from the last great series of monumental wooden assemblages which occupied Klippel over roughly eight years from the late 1980s to early 1990s, No. 667(b) 1987 is an uncompromising declaration of the artist's steadfast commitment to the non-representational, notwithstanding the then-prevailing preference for naturalism, realism and narrative within contemporary art practice. As Edwards elucidates, at this time - 'Klippel's preoccupation with an animating surface [had] devolved into simpler monumental sections and forms. Space and solid relate as equal forces: the emptiness of the central space reliant upon the solid forms around it.'2 Employing geometric wooden pattern-parts from obsolete machinery - a medium which the artist had not used since the 1940s - Klippel here achieves the ultimate in abstraction, eliminating the range of parts incorporated in his earlier works to create sculptures constituted primarily of solid geometric mass with alternating organic forms.

Like the monumental wooden assemblage No. 667(a), 1987 from which it derives, the present bronze is a grand, rhythmic exploration of positive and negative space - a solid plinth of imposing mass culminating at the top with a vertical undulating form contained within an open rectangular frame. Although clearly related to the original conception in wood, however, No. 667(b) has been so masterfully translated that it still assumes its own unique qualities - from the peculiar surface effects of the different medium to the forms which encompass, and are encompassed, differently by their surrounding space. Encapsulating the skilful interplay of form and space for which Klippel is so widely acclaimed, the work is a testament to the artist's enduring legacy; as one critic observes, '...if his sculpture carries any sort of lesson it is both that important works of art will surely rise out of the present stream, and equally, that one doesn't necessarily have to be in it or with it in order to produce great works of art.'3

1. Edwards, D., Robert Klippel, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2002, p. 17
2. ibid., p. 187
3. Thomas, L., 'Cogs and slats in a timeless Klippel - possibly only today', Australian, 8 February 1969.