Art interests me greatly, but truth interests me infinitely more.
Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) devoted much of his career to the struggle between matter and meaning, engaging in an extended exploration of how to reduce the figure’s mass as far as possible while imbuing it with essential force. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that Giacometti’s depictions of humanity are “always mediating between nothingness and being,” his sculptures evoking the emotional intensity of the void. Often considered testimony to the ravages of postwar Europe, Giacometti’s sculptures, paintings, and drawings possess a timeless quality, inflected with art historical and philosophical narratives, from Surrealism and Expressionism to existentialism and phenomenology.
Born near Stampa, in Switzerland’s southeastern Alps, Giacometti grew up surrounded by the dark shadows, glistening lakes, and precipitous roads of the steep mountain range. This geographic intensity would deeply inform his understanding of mortality and time. In 1922 Giacometti moved to Paris, where, growing dissatisfied with his figurative sculptures, he turned to Cubism, dissecting abstract forms and experimenting with negative space. His search for noncorporeal sculptural forms led to planar, abstract works such as Gazing Head (1928), shown in an exhibition at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher in June 1929. This work caught the attention of the Surrealists, whose thinking would influence the form and content of Giacometti’s work, and expanded the ways he approached themes of destruction, materiality, and the uncanny.
Giacometti often used his close companions as models, from his wife Annette to his brother Diego, as well as poets, writers, and fellow artists including Jean Genet and Eli Lotar, requiring them to sit for many hours—often over several weeks—to capture their likeness to his satisfaction. During these long periods of stillness, he would insist that his sitters offer him a presence as attentive as his own.
In the 1950s, beginning with his second exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, Giacometti started to gain international acclaim as critics, writers, and philosophers recognized his work as an absolute embodiment of his generation. During this period the artist was particularly focused on representations of the female nude, depicting slender, elegiac forms that emphasize the relationship between the body and gravity. Giacometti produced his famed Femmes de Venise (Women of Venice, 1956) for the French Pavilion of the 1956 Venice Biennale, as well as a concurrent retrospective at the Kunsthalle Bern. Sculpting clay over wire armatures, he created around fifteen figures, nine of which were cast in bronze. Departing from his earlier, impossibly thin “visionary” figures, the Femmes de Venise are rendered with a lifelike accuracy, their somber elegance speaking to universal themes of life and death, darkness and light.
Up until his death in 1966, Giacometti pushed the limits of representation, setting into motion ever-unfolding phenomenological investigations that remain at the core of art making today: How can matter—bronze, plaster, charcoal, paint—embody truth? And how, if at all, can art preserve the essence of the living?
Substance and Shadow
Alberto Giacometti sculptures and their photographs by Peter Lindbergh
May 19–July 22, 2017
Britannia Street, London
Extended through November 19, 2016
From Modigliani to Currin
September 20–November 19, 2016
980 Madison Avenue, New York
Extended through June 17, 2016
Alberto Giacometti | Yves Klein
In Search of the Absolute
April 27–June 17, 2016
Grosvenor Hill, London
In the Studio: Paintings
Curated by John Elderfield
February 17–April 18, 2015
West 21st Street, New York
Wyatt Allgeier pays homage to the renowned gallerist and artist Betty Parsons (1900–1982).
Peter Lindbergh on Alberto Giacometti
Peter Lindbergh discusses photography and the history of his practice with Catherine Grenier, Director of Fondation Giacometti. An accompanying video captures Lindbergh describing the powerful experience he had while photographing sculptures by Alberto Giacometti.
Substance and Shadow
Alberto Giacometti’s iconic sculptures have become the focus of Peter Lindbergh’s photographic gaze. An exhibition at Gagosian London brings together the sculptures and the photographs.
Alberto Giacometti and Yves Klein: Interview with Joachim Pissarro
Joachim Pissarro, the curator of Alberto Giacometti Yves Klein: In Search of the Absolute discusses with Gagosian’s Alison McDonald the works and themes that will be presented in this exhibition.
FIAC Online 2021
March 2–12, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to present Printemps oublié for the first online edition of FIAC. This curated presentation reflects the dual character of springtime as a reminder of past trials and the harbinger of a vibrant new season to come.
All the artworks will appear on the Gagosian website and a rotating selection will appear in the inaugural FIAC Online Viewing Rooms, from March 4 to 7.
Jeff Koons, Bluebird Planter, 2010–16 © Jeff Koons
Douglas Gordon and
The exhibition Douglas Gordon: The Morning After was scheduled to open at the Giacometti Institute in Paris on April 24, 2020, placing original works by Gordon side by side with those of Alberto Giacometti. Unfortunately, owing to the covid-19 crisis, the exhibition had to be delayed for a year. As a result, the institution has invited Douglas Gordon to collaborate on several activities from April 2020 through April 2021. This unprecedented partnership, the institute’s first with a contemporary artist, will variously take the form of impromptu interventions, disseminations, exchanges, and meetings on the foundation’s website and in the spaces of the institute and its partners.
Douglas Gordon’s hand alongside a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti at Institut Giacometti, Paris. Artwork © Succession Giacometti. Photo: Thomas Gangnet
October 17–20, 2019, booth B33
Grand Palais, Paris
Gagosian is pleased to participate in FIAC 2019 with Artists on the French Riviera, a special presentation that explores twentieth-century artistic life on the Côte d’Azur. On display are works by Alexander Calder, Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, Henri Matisse, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, and Edward Quinn, among others.
Jean Cocteau in front of one of the several murals he painted on the walls of Francine Weisweiller’s Villa Santo Sospir, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France, 1954. Photo: Edward Quinn
Ansikte mot ansikte
Through May 30, 2021
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Alberto Giacometti forged a singular path within European modernism, restlessly seeking a new language for sculpture as a “double of reality.” Produced in close collaboration with Fondation Giacometti, Paris, this exhibition, whose title translates to Giacometti: Face to Face, is the first large-scale retrospective of the artist’s work in Sweden in more than twenty years. The exhibition traces the evolution of Giacometti’s work from post-Cubism through Surrealism to postwar realism.
Installation view, Giacometti: Ansikte mot ansikte, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, October 10, 2020–May 30, 2021. Artwork © Succession Alberto Giacometti (ADAGP + Fondation Giacometti), 2021. Photo: Åsa Lundén
Drawing at Midcentury
Through June 5, 2021
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Bringing together approximately eighty works on paper from the museum’s collection, Degree Zero illuminates how artists used drawing to forge a new visual language in the aftermath of World War II. Modest, immediate, and direct, drawing was the ideal medium for this period of renewal. The exhibition looks across movements, geographies, and generations to highlight connections between artists who shared common materials and ideas between 1948 and 1961. Work by Jay DeFeo, Willem de Kooning, Alberto Giacometti, and Cy Twombly is included.
Jay DeFeo, Untitled (Florence), 1952, Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2020 The Jay DeFeo Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
L’homme qui marche
Une icône de l’art du XXè siècle
July 4–November 29, 2020
Institut Giacometti, Paris
This exhibition, whose title translates to The Walking Man: An Icon of 20th Century Art, explores Alberto Giacometti’s most famous work, the Walking Man. The show brings together for the first time the various life-size models, as well as most of the sculpted and drawn variations, of the famous artwork. Accompanied by numerous unpublished documents and drawings, it traces the genealogy of the motif, from the Walking Woman of Giacometti’s Surrealist period to the icons created between 1959 and 1960.
Installation view, L’homme qui marche: Une icône de l’art du XXè siècle, Institut Giacometti, Paris, July 4–November 29, 2020 © Succession Alberto Giacometti
Bilder der Ruhe
February 12–November 15, 2020
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel
This exhibition, whose title translates to Silent Vision: Images of Calm and Quiet, features works of modern and contemporary art that deal with the subject of tranquility. Each room is dedicated to a specific aspect of calmness, inviting visitors to see and contemplate, as it were, stillness. Work by Alberto Giacometti, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, and Andy Warhol is included.
Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant), 1932, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel © Succession Picasso/2020, ProLitteris, Zurich