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?
Photo: Gordon Parks/Getty Images
Bustes de Femmes
Paris 10th Anniversary Exhibition
October 10–December 18, 2020
rue de Ponthieu, Paris
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.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
Musée & École Giacometti
The Fondation Giacometti is creating the Musée & École Giacometti in the historic building of the former Invalides train station and the basement of the esplanade in Paris, due to open in 2026. Envisioned as a new type of institution, the site will include a museum showcasing works by Alberto Giacometti, multidisciplinary exhibition spaces, and an art school. The site will be dedicated to fostering dialogues between the public, artists, and different modes of creative expression.
Invalides train station, Paris, to be converted into the Musée & École Giacometti. Photo: © Luc Castel, courtesy Fondation Giacometti
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
Jubiläumsausstellung—Special Guest Duane Hanson
October 30, 2022–January 8, 2023
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland
This exhibition, whose title translates to Anniversary Exhibition—Special Guest Duane Hanson, features more than one hundred works from the foundation’s collection, from modern to contemporary art, to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the institution. Several hyperrealist sculptures by Duane Hanson enrich the presentation, opening up surprising perspectives on the exhibited artworks, architecture, staff, and visitors. Work by Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, Alberto Giacometti, Anselm Kiefer, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Rachel Whiteread is included.
Installation view, Jubiläumsausstellung—Special Guest Duane Hanson, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland, October 30, 2022–January 8, 2023. Artwork, front to back: © 2022 Estate of Duane Hanson/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
Alberto Giacometti/Sophie Ristelhueber
September 27–November 30, 2022
Institut Giacometti, Paris
Legacy places a series of works by Alberto Giacometti in dialogue with photographs by Sophie Ristelhueber. Focusing on the individual experience and the human condition that underlie both artists’ work, this exhibition presents Giacometti’s scarified sculptures along with Ristelhueber’s photographic series of reconstructed bodies.
Installation view, Alberto Giacometti/Sophie Ristelhueber: Legacy, Institut Giacometti, Paris, September 27–November 30, 2022. Artwork, left to right: © Succession Alberto Giacometti/ADAGP, Paris 2022; © Sophie Ristelhueber
The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection
October 15, 2021–November 27, 2022
Seattle Art Museum
This exhibition celebrates the Friday Foundation’s gift of nineteen artworks from the Lang Collection to the Seattle Art Museum in honor of Seattle collectors Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis. Dating from 1945 to 1976, the paintings, drawings, and sculptures in Frisson represent mature works and pivotal moments of artistic development from some of the most influential American and European artists of the postwar period. Work by Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, and Alberto Giacometti is included.
Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait, 1967, installation view, Seattle Art Museum © The Estate of Francis Bacon. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Alberto Giacometti / Douglas Gordon
The Morning After
April 20–June 12, 2022
Institut Giacometti, Paris
Douglas Gordon’s work on the distortion of time and the tensions between opposing forces shares common ground with Alberto Giacometti’s questioning of the human condition. Granted carte blanche to imagine a dialogue between his practice and Giacometti’s, Gordon presents a series of previously unexhibited works alongside little-known sculptures and drawings by Giacometti. Among these, small sculptures by Giacometti are nestled within casts of Gordon’s own hands, enacting a literal and figurative “point of contact” between their artworks.
Top: Alberto Giacometti, Tête d’homme, c. 1962–65 © Succession Alberto Giacometti/ADAGP, Paris 2022. Bottom: Douglas Gordon, Hand Holding Head of a Man, 2022 © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany, 2022. Photo: courtesy Studio lost but found, Berlin, and Kamel Mennour, Paris