Alberto Giacometti - Modern Masters London Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Efstrathios Eleftheriades (called Tériade) and Alice Tériade, rue de Rennes, Paris, circa 1954
    Alice Tériade, Paris, 1983
    Artcurial, Paris, 'Art Moderne 1: Collection Alice Tériade, Ancienne Collection Mary Moore, à Divers', 20 October 2007, lot 16
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Ferdinando Scianna, Henri Cartier-Bresson Photographié par Martine Franck, exh. cat., Galeries Photo de la Fnac, Milan, 1998, illustrated pl. 16
    Beat Stutzer, ed., The Unseen Giacometti: Unknown Photographs and Drawings, exh. cat., Bünder Kunstmuseum, Chur, 2011, illustrated pp. 99, 219

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present lot is registered by the Fondation Alberto and Annette Giacometti in the online Alberto Giacometti Database (AGD) under the number AGD 510.

    Tériade the Alchemist

    Only an exceptional person could have forged such strong friendships with the most important, innovative, and exacting artists and writers of the twentieth century.

    Efstrathios Elefheriades, known as Tériade, was born May 2, 1897 on the isle of Lesbos in Greece. He was eighteen when he arrived in Paris to study law. He began his career as an art critic alongside his compatriot Christian Zervos who came, in 1926, to create the journal Les Cahiers d’art. For five years he wrote exhibition reviews and notes on artists. At the same time, from 1928 to 1932, with Maurice Raynal, he contributed weekly art critiques to the journal L’Intransigeant. From 1931 to 1937 he joined forces with the famous editor Albert Skira, working for the journal Minotaure, all the while learning the trade of the art editor. In 1937, wishing to direct his own journal, Tériade founded Verve, considered at the time “the most beautiful journal in the world”. He published twenty-six volumes up until 1960, celebrating the most renowned modern artists, embracing the most famous writers, the most penetrating photographers, and presenting in equal measure the most essential monuments of artistic and literary heritage, everything reproduced and highlighted by the best printers and lithographers who utilized the most advanced techniques. The exemplary quality of his work, his technical mastery, his intellectual rigor, his insatiable curiosity, and his legendary diplomacy allowed him to gain the confidence of artists and writers. He was thus able to realize, from 1943 to 1974, twenty-seven artist books, the majority of which have entered into the canons of art history and bibliophilia.

    Matisse, Picasso, Giacometti, Leger, Miro, Braque, Bonnard, Derain, Chagall, Klee, Rouault, Laurens, Masson, Gris, Balthus… among others for the painters; Gide, Bataille, Michaux, Malraux, Valery, Joyce, Hemingway, Reverdy, Jarry, Paulhan, Claudel, Rouveyre, Prevert, Sartre, Bachelard, Duthuit… for the writers and poets; Brassai, Cartier-Bresson, Blumenfeld...for the photographers; a plethora of personalities who, more than just working with Tériade, were honoured to be his friend.

    An editor who facilitated the publication of Chant des morts by Reverdy and Picasso, Cirque by Chagall, Divertissement by Rouault, L’enfance d’Ubu by Miro, Paris sans fin by Giacometti, Poème de l’angle droit by Le Corbusier, Images à la sauvette by Cartier-Bresson, and Jazz by Matisse, inevitably played a powerful role in the evolution of the modern art book. Yet Tériade far surpassed his functions as an editor. He not only posed the fundamental questions that dominated modern painting at that time, but he also served as a confidant and spokesperson for his artist friends. “Painters know better than anyone how to shed light on certain things that the critics have constantly ignored, and which nevertheless appear, with this first setback, to be essential” (Tériade, cited by Jean Leymarie, ‘Le jardin sur la mer’, Matisse et Tériade, Anthese, Arcueil, France, 2002, p. 48).

    Without Tériade, Matisse would not have created Jazz and subverted the art world with his paper cut-outs. It was Tériade who proposed, beginning in 1941, that Matisse create a book devoted to colour, the “manuscrit à peinture moderne” (letter from Tériade to Matisse June 10, 1941). During this period of war he succeeded in convincing Matisse and in overcoming all the technical difficulties in order to achieve publication in September 1947. The grateful Matisse would go on to transform the ‘crucible’ where the magical projects between Tériade often came together: his house in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the villa Natacha.

    In 1951, Matisse had just completed the Chapelle des Dominicaines de Vence, which he considered the apogee of his career, a total work of art into which he put into practice all his abilities: painting, ink drawing, sculpture, stained glass, ceramics, and textiles, the latter an essential material for this artist who came from a family of artisans who had practiced weaving for over three hundred years. He therefore decided to transform the dining room of villa Natacha into a “profane chapel”, a sort of “laboratory”, a curio cabinet for the decorative art that he had defended all his life, by creating a coloured stained glass window, Les Poissons chinois, and facing it a large white ceramic fresco painted with black enamel, Le Platane. For this project he reunited with Giacometti, who had already created a plaster ceiling light and two large plaster coupes for this same dining room. The two artists believed that “The essence of modern art is to participate in our life” (Henri Matisse, extract from Matisse à Paris, a conversation with Leon Degand, Les Lettres Françaises, no. 76, October 6, 1945). Giacometti was able, with his brother Diego, to produce objects for the architect-decorator Jean-Michel Frank and for very close friends such as Tériade. Matisse, in the same period, used different techniques (engraving, tapestry, stained glass, ceramics, drawing, painting, paper cut-outs), opening up paths of experimentation in order to arrive at the only thing that mattered, creating one’s own language, inventing new artistic gestures.

    In his villa Natacha Tériade lived and worked surrounded by many extraordinary works created by his artist friends, many of which were dedicated to him. Critic, writer, editor, Tériade spent his life promoting art and artists. After his death, his wife Alice chose to bequeath his collection of works, his books, his photographs, his archives and the dining room from villa Natacha to the museum founded by Matisse in his hometown Cateau-Cambrésis in 1952. Tériade the alchemist knew how to coax the best out of artists and technicians in order produce works that have entered into art history with a simplicity and a generosity that today are the admiration of all.

    Patrice Deparpe
    Director, Musée départemental Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis

    Alberto Giacometti’s Work in Plaster

    The present ceiling light is one of three unique plaster ceiling lights that Alberto Giacometti created for his close friend, the editor Tériade. Originally installed in Tériade’s dining room in his apartment on rue de Rennes in Paris, it is exceptional in its originality, but also in its large size, spanning 129 cm in diameter. The other two smaller ceiling lights hung in villa Natacha, Tériade’s seaside residence in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat; one in the famous ‘Matisse’ dining room (now at the Musée départemental Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis) and the other, ‘Petit Lustre avec Figurines’ in the salon (Artcurial, Paris, ‘Art Moderne 1: Collection Alice Tériade, Ancienne Collection Mary Moore, à Divers’, October 20, 2007, lot 10).

    For most sculptors, plaster is an intermediary material used in the lost wax process. Giacometti, however, treated plaster as a noble material, valuing it for its malleability and sense of fragility. The filmmaker Ernst Scheidegger, who documented Giacometti’s studio from the 1940s-1960s, also highlighted plaster’s natural tendency towards chiaroscuro: “As a white material plaster is superbly well suited to bringing a figure to life using light and shade...the plaster casts reproduced Alberto’s work in a much more differentiated and lively way than many of the bronzes could”. Giacometti in fact chose to apply a matt-white patina to some of his bronzes, such as Femme couchée qui rêve (1929), an interesting reversal, with bronze imitating a supposedly more base material.

    The present ceiling light would have been created in much the same way as Giacometti’s plaster sculptures; as Scheidegger described his working method, “Diego set up a wire frame – an armature – which the brothers discussed together, and then Alberto began to work on it with plaster”. Scheidegger went on to describe Giacometti’s chaotic studio on rue Hippolyte-Maindron: “There were piles of plaster scraps and chaos reigned. In the middle of this muddle Alberto continued to work imperturbably, as if it was nothing to do with him”. Indeed, a Denise Colomb photograph from 1954 shows the present lot hanging above Giacometti in his studio, the artist perched on a stool and surrounded by plaster figurines, tools, and fragments.

    Giacometti had begun designing plaster lighting in the late 1920s, a period of intense collaboration with Jean-Michel Frank. The designer is believed to have discovered Giacometti’s work at the 1929 Salon de Tuileries exposition held at the Palais de Bois. Giacometti went on to design over seventy objects for Frank, including seventeen lamps, eleven floor lamps, thirteen vases, ten wall lights, and other small accessories. Among the more notable Frank interiors to include Giacometti designs were Elsa Schiaparelli’s showroom on Place Vendôme (1934); Jean-Pierre Guerlain’s apartment (1935) and Jorge Born’s villa, Buenos Aires (1939). Giacometti assigned equal importance to his decorative works and sculptures. As he explained in a 1962 interview with André Parinaud, “For my livelihood, I accepted to make anonymous utilitarian objects for a decorator at that time, Jean-Michel Frank. […] it was mostly not well seen. It was considered a kind of decline. I nevertheless tried to make the best possible vases, for example, and I realized I was developing a vase exactly as I would a sculpture and that there was no difference between what I called a sculpture and what was an object, a vase”!

    Following his collaboration with Jean-Michel Frank, Giacometti continued to produce decorative objects, but only for very close friends such as Tériade. In addition to the three plaster ceiling lights, Tériade owned bowls, floor lamps, and a ‘Flambeau’ table lamp which Giacometti included, rather prominently, in the foreground of a portrait of him from circa 1939.


Unique and large conic chandelier with four small cones, from the Tériade apartment, Paris

circa 1954
83.9 cm (33 in.) drop, 129.2 cm (50 7/8 in.) diameter
Together with a certificate of authenticity from the Comité Giacometti.

£1,500,000 - 2,500,000 Ω

Sold for £2,045,000

Contact Specialist
Madalena Horta e Costa
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4019

Modern Masters

London Auction 26 April 2017