The culture minister, Ed Vaizey, has put a temporary export bar on an Alberto Giacometti sculpture considered to be a vital connection between British and European modernism.
The sculpture, abstract for the Swiss Giacometti, is titled Femme and was made between 1928-9. The painter Winifred Nicholson bought it in the mid-1930’s and it is the only plaster work of Giacometti’s in the United Kingdom – however, it has just been sold to a foreign buyer.
The temporary export ban is in the hope that a British buyer will come forward and match the asking price of £2,083,500. The decision to defer the export licence was made on the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. Committee member Richard Calvocoressi, who previously, was the director of the Henry Moore Foundation, said: “This is one of Giacometti’s most simplified female figures – flat, almost abstract, its pure white forms pared down to bare essentials. Works such as this had a huge influence on the development of modern sculpture.”
Indeed, Giacometti is reported to have influenced some of Britain’s finest artists, including Ben Nicholson, Barbra Hepwroth and Henry Moore. In 2010, Giacometti’s sculpture Walking Man sold for a record breaking £65 million; so Femme, is a bit of a bargain.
Ed Vaizey said: “This Giacometti sculpture is not only a stunning example of his work but it also heavily influenced some our greatest artists. It is important that Femme is kept in the country so we can better understand and enjoy this pivotal period in modern British art.”
It’s a limited window of opportunity. The export licence has been deferred until 24 May; but could be extended if a serious intention to raise the necessary funds has been made. Let’s get saving!