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 September 17, 2016
May 18–September 17, 2016
Extended through June 17, 2016
Alberto Giacometti | Yves Klein
In Search of the Absolute
April 27–June 17, 2016
Grosvenor Hill, London
The Shape of Time
In Collaboration with Gisèle Croës
November 26, 2015–January 9, 2016
In the Studio: Paintings
Curated by John Elderfield
February 17–April 18, 2015
West 21st Street, New York
In the Studio: Photographs
Curated by Peter Galassi
February 17–April 18, 2015
980 Madison Avenue, New York
Extended through May 31, 2014
March 13–May 31, 2014
From the Quarterly
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.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
Opening June 22, 2018
The Giacometti Foundation, Paris, is pleased to announce the opening of the Giacometti Institute, a new permanent space dedicated to exhibitions on the artist, and to art historical research and pedagogy. The institute aims to provide new perspectives on Giacometti’s work and the creative period in which it emerged. It will also include a re-creation of the artist’s studio as the artist left it on his death, in 1966.
Photo © Succession Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris + ADAGP, Paris) 2018
In this episode of weekly web series TateShots, Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern, London, highlights three key works by Alberto Giacometti shown in the 2017 Tate Modern retrospective Giacometti.
Through January 20, 2019
Musée Maillol Paris
Musée Maillol, in collaboration with the Fondation Giacometti, presents an overview of Alberto Giacometti’s oeuvre, complemented by works of important classical and modern sculptors from his time. The show includes more than fifty sculptures by Giacometti alongside twenty-five works by other artists such as Brancusi and Rodin.
Alberto Giacometti, La Forêt, 1950, Fondation Giacometti, Paris © Succession Alberto Giacometti/ADAGP, Paris 2018
Rui Chafes and Alberto Giacometti
Gris, vide, cris
October 3–December 16, 2018
Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, Paris
This exhibition developed as an exploration of the common lexicon of artists, timelessness, dematerialization, and emptiness. Fifteen works by Alberto Giacometti are presented alongside works by Rui Chafes that were commissioned specifically for this project.
Arte e matericità tra informe et invisibile
October 4, 2018–January 6, 2019
GAMeC — Galleria d’Arte Moderna et Contemporanea di Bergamo, Italy
Black Hole: Arte e matericità tra informe et invisibile is the first exhibition in an ambitious three-year research program dedicated to the theme of matter. Activating a dialogue with the history of scientific and technological discoveries, and investigating the development of aesthetics theories, Black Hole showcases the work of artists who have explored the material element’s most intrinsic significance, where the actual concept of matter shatters to open up a more profound idea of matter as an original element, as the primordial substance that constitutes everything. Work by Urs Fischer, Lucio Fontana, Alberto Giacometti, Anselm Kiefer, and Piero Manzoni is included.
Bacon, Freud, and the School of London
October 9, 2018–January 13, 2019
Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
In the decades following World War II, Bacon, Freud, and their British contemporaries engaged with subjects that felt immediate and intensely personal. This exhibition retraces their artistic developments via works, including paintings and drawings, spanning seven decades. Despite the sheer diversity of approaches and techniques that embodied their practices, the members of this group were constantly renewing their individual appraisals of the artist’s personal position in the world, focusing on individuals, locations, and narratives close and dear to them. The exhibition was initially produced under the title Bacon, Freud, and the London Painters by ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark. Work by Michael Andrews, Francis Bacon, Glenn Brown, Alberto Giacometti, and Jenny Saville is included.
Michael Andrews, A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over, 1952, Tate © The Estate of Michael Andrews