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
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.
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.
Une aventure moderne
Through June 11, 2019
Lille Métropole Musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut, Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France
Alberto Giacometti’s slender and fragile sculptures capture men and women in moments of dynamism and stillness. In this exhibition, more than 150 works reveal the unparalleled journey of a mythical modern artist.
Through June 30, 2019
Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi, France
This exhibition features more than eighty works, realized between the artist’s arrival in Paris, in the 1920s, and the end of his career. The show includes thirty bronze and plaster sculptures, forty-four drawings, and twelve prints. The chronological and thematic unfolding illustrates the essential relationship between Alberto Giacometti’s drawings and his sculptures—the former, as the artist often reiterated, being an indispensable tool for understanding a subject and for aiding perception in general. The show includes Peter Lindbergh’s 2017 photographs of Giacometti’s work in the Fondation Giacometti collection in Paris.
Alberto Giacometti, Simone de Beauvoir, 1946 © Succession Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti Paris + ADAGP Paris) 2019
Préhistoire, une énigme moderne
Through September 16, 2019
Centre Pompidou, Paris
This exhibition examines the link between prehistory and modern and contemporary art. It reveals that some of the most important artists of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been haunted by the question, What is prehistory? Work by Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein, Giuseppe Penone, and Pablo Picasso is included.
Yves Klein, Anthropométrie (ANT 84), 1960 © Succession Yves Klein/ADAGP, Paris 2019. Photo: Muriel Anssens/Ville de Nice
Alberto Giacometti/Peter Lindbergh
January 22–March 24, 2019
Giacometti Institute, Paris
Peter Lindbergh was invited to photograph bronzes and plasters by Alberto Giacometti held at the Fondation Giacometti, Paris, in 2017. Lindbergh’s black-and-white photographs capture the anxiety behind the beauty that characterizes Giacometti and his perpetual search for authenticity and provide fresh perspectives, which allow for new discovery. The photographs are accompanied by unpublished drawings by Giacometti.
Peter Lindbergh, Alberto Giacometti, Buste de Diego d’après nature, Paris, 2017, 2017 © Peter Lindbergh and © Succession Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti + ADAGP) Paris 2018