The first Irish exhibition in over 30 years of the work of the great sculptor Alberto Giacometti is due to come to the National Gallery of Ireland next month.
ver the past decade, prices for works by the late artist have exceeded 100 million euros, making him the most expensive sculptor of all time.
In 2017, his sculpture “L’Homme au Doigt”, meaning Pointing Man, set a world record when it sold for more than $141 million at Christie’s auction house in New York.
The National Gallery in Dublin is organizing an exhibition dedicated to sculpture in honor of his work.
The 50 works — the exhibition is called “Giacometti: From Life” — will include bronze and plaster sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints. The works of art date from Giacometti’s early years in his native Switzerland to the later works made in his Paris studio. It will highlight the artist’s close working relationships with family members and friends.
The exhibition’s co-curator, Janet McLean, said the art market “has a life of its own”, which was very different from the life Giacometti lived.
“Giacometti didn’t care about ‘tricks’. The frugality in which he lived was extraordinary. His studio was very small and he and his wife only had a small room with a bed next to it. He was going to cafes and bars, having coffee and having dinner, but he didn’t need ‘things,'” she said.
The Swiss artist placed enormous demands on his models, demanding long periods of intense stillness.
“He loved working face-to-face in this tiny little studio, so you can imagine the intimacy of that – staring at someone for hours on end, when neither of us really looked someone in the eye. There was so a huge element of trust in there,” Ms. McLean said.
“At one point Giacometti said ‘a head is all you need’. He was fascinated by the human head, and when you think about it, it’s absolutely fascinating. How people look. It’s almost like a landscape, there is everything in it.
Born in 1901 in Borgonovo, Switzerland, he moved to Paris in 1922 where he met many writers and artists of the time, including Samuel Beckett, with whom he befriended for more than 20 years.
“They would have socialized together and taken walks late at night. They both had an interest in humanity and a dark sense of humor,” Ms McLean said.
Although Giacometti is an extrovert and Beckett is subject to long silences, McLean said that “their personalities clicked. Both had a very serious seriousness about their work”.
Critics say what Beckett and Giacometti found in each other was someone who understood that art is a hopeless enterprise. They shared their views on long walks, hopping between cafes and bars, while avoiding the intelligentsia.
“Beckett had a lot of friends from very different backgrounds, but he compartmentalized his friendships and didn’t bring groups together. He was a very individual person, because he was interested in conversation and learning from people. Giacometti had that too, as you can see in his way of working.
Although Beckett never posed for Giacometti, the artist was commissioned by Beckett to make a sculpture of a tree for the set of Waiting for Godot. However, in May 1968 it was destroyed in the city riots, despite staff recognizing its value by putting it in storage for safekeeping.
The exhibition, in collaboration with the Giacometti Foundation, Paris, opens on April 9. Tickets are available on the National Gallery of Ireland website.