Remembering Alberto Giacometti

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last couple of days, you’ll know one of the great artists of this generation, David Bowie, died on Monday 11th. What you may not know, is that he passed away on the same day as Alberto Giacometti, who died 50 years previous in 1966.

This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of Giacometti’s death, and we can expect to see some exciting exhibitions celebrating this anniversary this year and next.

Born in 1901 in Switzerland, Giacometti was the eldest of four siblings, his father being the post-impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti. Coming from such a background, Alberto was interested in art from a very early age, and studied at the Geneva School of Fine Arts. In 1922 he moved to Paris to study under the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, a contemporary of Rodin’s.

It was in Paris that he would begin experimenting with cubism and surrealism, and at the age of 25, he got himself a tiny little studio on the Rue Hipolyte Mandrion; of which he told an American Journalist “I planned on moving on as soon as I could because it was too small – just a hole.” However, he remained there for the rest of his life.
It was here Giacometti began experimenting with cubism and surrealism, to eventually become regarded as one of the foremost surrealist sculptors. His iconic spindly bronze figures, such as ‘L’homme au doigt’ (1947) – which broke the record for the most expensive sculpture sold at auction when it fetched $141.3m at Christie’s last May, are said to represent the feeling he got when he looked at a woman.

His small studio is currently being recreated exactly as he left it, on the same street in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, by the new ‘Institute Giacometti’. This recreation will be part of a new exhibition space and research centre, functioning as an “outpost” for the ‘Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti’ which manages most of his estate and owns the largest collection of his works. The studio is due to open later this year.

To coincide with the anniversary of his death, exhibitions including ‘Giacometti – In His Own Words: Sculptures’ will open at the Luxembourg & Dayan in London on the 2nd of February. The majority of the works that will be on display have not been exhibited in the UK before, including a self-portrait that was in his first exhibition in 1927. The exhibition focuses around a letter to New York art dealer and friend, Pierre Matisse, in which the artist expresses doubts about his work. These doubts lead to his experimentation with cubism and surrealism.

His exhibition ‘Pure Presence’ has just closed at the National Portrait Gallery, which focused on his lesser-known portraits, but still attracted some 48,500 visitors.

The ‘Foundation Alberto et Annette Giacometti’ will also be lending works to the Tate Modern for a retrospective due to open in 2017.