Magazine of art press and reviews from London
David Franchi – Monday, 25th April 2016.
An exhibition about Alberto Giacometti is always welcome, at the Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London. “Alberto Giacometti: In His Own Words (Sculptures 1925-1934)” exhibition organised by Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London, examined the production of the artist during this fundamental decade.
The Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery exhibition brought to London an unusual approach to the work of Giacometti, crucial to the formalization of his later style.
Giacometti: In His Own Words exhibition displayed more than 18 sculptures from1925 -1934, many of which were exhibited in the UK for the first time.
The exhibition Giacometti: In His Own Words was inspired by a letter the artist wrote to his dealer and friend Pierre Matisse in 1947.
Alberto Giacometti had an exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, in 1948. It was a key moment of his life. Its work was shown as a whole for the first time. It was the outcome of a difficult period of experimentation culminated in his exclusion from the surrealist movement.
Giacometti in his letter to Matisse wrote he was craving that exhibition could narrate his life. He wrote: “Here is the list of sculptures that I promised you, but I could not send it without explaining a certain succession of facts […] without which it would make no sense”. Then Giacometti illustrated his philosophy on sculpture.
It was in this decade that Giacometti adopted the retreat to memory that is now considered so fundamental to his oeuvre.
The letter Giacometti wrote to Matisse which inspired the, London exhibition of Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery was written to accompany a group of sculptures planned for the 1948 exhibition. This letter was so noteworthy that Matisse decided to reproduce it in the catalogue alongside with an English translation.
The letter illustrated Giacometti’s artistic philosophy connected with his life and personal crisis. The exhibition in New York started from its childhood. He was born on 10 October 1901 in Val Bresaglia (Swiss). He moved to Geneva to study in 1919. He made many trips to Venice, Florence and Rome between 1919 and 1921.
In 1921, he announced his decision to be a sculptor leaving aside the painting – his father was a painter. He moved to
Paris in 1922 and started to study under famous sculptor Antoine Bourdelle.
Giacometti dated his artistic crisis in 1925. It was the beginning of a research period. Slowly he abandoned realistic depiction in favour of imaginative creation based on memory. However, he did not give up drawing or the lesson of Bourdelle, but just put them aside. In exploration for a new point of departure, he was inspired by visiting museums, especially the Louvre.
In 1925, Giacometti also firstly public exhibited at the Salon Tuileries, beginning to create his own artistic identity. In his first series of works concerning construction of volume Giacometti employed forms and signs already been used by the post-cubists artists.
He moved forward in 1929 with his Plaques series reducing forms to mere simple and rectangular undulating surfaces. The Plaques series led Giacometti to a new stage of his work where the space is an innovative interactive element. He started to become recognized in the Paris art scene. Success arrived without warning in June 1929, during an exhibition when the Viscount of Noailles, famous collector, bought his Téte Qui Regarde.
Dealer Pierre Loeb could quickly sign a contract with Giacometti and it was a great success. In September 1929, Documents published the first article dedicated to Giacometti, written by Leiris:”There are moments of what can be called crisis, which are the only one that count in life. […] I love Giacometti’s sculpture because what he does simply is to petrify one of these crises.”
In 1930, Giacometti started to work on a new element, the movement. He realised La Boule Suspendue, a moving sculpture. Breton officially invited him to join the surrealist group.
However, in 1933 following the death of his father, Giacometti started to explore the tension between life and death. He felt surrealism was coming to an end. He realised Téte – Crane (1934), which united life and death but also reflected the remaining interest in surrealism. But this new line of work was considered scandalous by the surrealists. They kicked him out of the movement in February 1935. However, Giacometti felt happy to have his freedom back and while connecting with many other artists he started to pursue the creation of an art capable to express the totality of life.
In his later years Giacometti’s works were shown in a number of large exhibitions throughout Europe. He died on 11th January 1966.
The Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London, exhibition brought together an uncommon corpus of plaster, bronze, and wood sculptures that reconstitutes the importance of this particularly exciting period for Giacometti, including seminal works such as Tête (Autoportrait), 1927, Femme Couchée, 1929, and Objet Désagréable, 1931.
Luxembourg & Dayan collaborated with the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, the Alberto Giacometti Stiftung, the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, The Morgan Library, and other private lenders.
This is the most complete exhibition to date focusing exclusively on this period of Giacometti’s oeuvre.
Giacometti is considered a master of sculpture. His work is famous all over the world and much appreciated. The bronze sculpture, L’Homme Qui Marche I (1960) (The walking man), held the record for the purchase price of an artwork (which is not a painting) for more than 100 million US dollars. On 12 May 2015, the bronze sculpture ‘Pointing man’ was sold by Christie’s in New York for $ 141 million, a new record for a sculpture.
The exhibition “Alberto Giacometti: In His Own Words (Sculptures 1925-1934)” was at the Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London, from 2 February until 16 April 2016.