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Giacometti, the power of the form

11 mai 2017

A little more than 50 years ago, Alberto Giacometti disappeared by losing his fight against cancer at the age of 64 years. Already popular during his lifetime, he is today the most illustrious contemporary sculptor in the world. His filiform artworks are sold for millions.

Who wants to sculpt million?

This Monday, May 11, 2015, the commissioners of the auction house Christie's in New York have certainly had to rub their eyes several times before the enormous numbers of the sale of the day. Les Femmes d’Alger, a work painted by the inevitable Pablo Picasso in 1955 was awarded for 179.4 million dollars (161 million Euros) while the statue L’homme au doigt by the sculptor Alberto Giacometti is ceded for $141.28 million (€ 126.83 million). These are the most expensive canvas and sculpture ever sold at auction. The bronze with the long silhouette, so characteristic of Giacometti, was awarded in just ... three minutes! He then beat the previous record held by another Giacometti, L’homme qui marche I, which had been awarded for 65 million pounds ($ 103.93 million) in 2010 at Sotheby's in London. These colossal figures enthroned Alberto Giacometti as a sacred monster of the world of art along with Picasso, Munch, Klimt, Francis Bacon and others Andy Warhol.

(L'Homme au doigt)

In 1955, at the Kunstmuseum in Bern, a first retrospective retraced the career, still going on at the time, of the brilliant artist, who also draw and painted. A few years later, in 1962, if the Beatles were four cool lads, Alberto Giacometti triumphantly received the Grand Prix of the Venice Biennale. The same year, he was again the subject of a retrospective at the Kunsthaus in Zürich. At the beginning of 1970, his works were exhibited in London, Paris, Copenhagen and MoMA in New York. A fulgurating and golden destiny for this artist from Stampa, a small Swiss village of an hundred people perched in Graubünden.

"I paint and sculpt to grasp full reality"

A few kilometers from the Italian border, the Alps as a backdrop, planted in the middle of the lakes, stands the val Bregaglia, beautiful and severe.

Place swept by the icy squalls, where we eat, drink and speak Italian, this Graubünden valley is a wild box where the sharp ridges of the mountains often appear in black and white, and where the filiform firs cling desperately to their roots to not fall in front of the roughness of the climate and the slope, then offering landscapes as sinister as bewitching.

Like Salvador Dalí, for whom his native region of the Empordà was an invaluable surrealist source of inspiration, it is with this decor, so soft and yet so torn, that Alberto Giacometti grew peacefully in the Village of Stampa. When he was born in October 1901 in Borgonovo, Alberto was a single son and later became the eldest son of a sibling of four. They lead a quiet childhood between Stampa and Maloja where the family owns a cottage to spend the summer cool. Pushed by Giovanni, his paternal painter, Alberto draws, paints and models from his childhood. Quickly he finds a clean style.

In 1922, he left the sweetness of his Swiss valley for the agitation of Parisian life. If the French capital becomes his second home, he will never forget the mountains of Stampa where he will continue to spend the summer months with his mother Annetta, who inspired his famous paintings La Mamma a Stampa. In Paris, Alberto Giacometti improves himself as a sculptor alongside the famous Antoine Bourdelle, himself a former pupil of Auguste Rodin. He attended the benches of the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the studio of the master. From 1924, he worked in his own studio with his brother Diego. The artist used to say: "I paint and sculpt to grasp full reality”. In 1927, he carved his Figures Plates, almost amputated of relief and of third dimension. His miniature sculptures are from the Second World War when the Swiss had to flee France to shelter in Geneva, where he will meet his wife Annette before putting his luggage again in Paris.

The refusal of a smooth Art

Often described as a cave, it is between the walls of its tiny workshop of 23 square meters, in the heart of the Montparnasse neighborhood, rue Hippolyte-Maindron, that Alberto Giacometti spends most of his intense artistic life. Of his sculptures, one generally retains only the longilinean forms quasi abstract, indecipherable. The artist has spent his life stripping his works, unceasingly erasing the signs to identify them. The Swiss did not want a smooth Art and said: "A sculpture is not an object, it is an interrogation, a question, an answer, it can not be finished or perfect." In fact, his characters are like gnawed, worn out by time. They evoke the silhouettes that are distinguished in the distance, with fuzzy outlines, like the snowy and tortured fir trees of the landscapes of his childhood.

Giacometti succumbed to the charms of Montparnasse, where he quickly met the excesses of nightlife in bars and clubs. There he meets Caroline, a prostitute, who will later become his mistress until her death. He assumed the life of the young woman and, like his wife, painted it regularly from 1961. In 1963, he underwent a partial ablation of the stomach after learning that he was suffering from cancer, and, despite all, he will continue to smoke four packs of cigarettes a day. After his death at the hospital in Chur, Switzerland, his wife and his mistress will rush to his bedside, personalities from all over Europe will attend his funeral in Stampa. Since then, Alberto Giacometti is buried in Borgonovo, where it all began.

Delphine Blais, the speaking body

As a child and adolescent, Delphine Blais developed a strong taste for drawing and for the arts, especially sculpture. The colors of a Bonnard or the forms of an Alberto Giacometti are all influences that nourish her work. Her assemblages take the form of long silhouettes in patchwork of colors. At the top of the naive stalagmites are placed faces with the appearance of Japanese prints. As in this ancestral aesthetic, the expression of the face is deliberately minimalist because it is the body that speaks. The dominant theme is the relationship to the other in the group, the family, the couple... She seeks to express emotions such as loneliness, indifference or tenderness through the posture and movement of the body.

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