Alberto Giacometti - Design New York Tuesday, June 7, 2022 | Phillips
  • "The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity."
    —Alberto Giacometti
    Alberto Giacometti persists as one of the great contributors to the development of modern sculpture. He is best remembered for his elongated bronze figures, which continue to spark dialogues on portraiture and spatiality. Before dedicating himself to full renderings of the human figure though, Giacometti enjoyed a productive tenure as a designer, creating expressive objects of utilitarian use. He designed the present lot, along with several other domestic accessories and furnishings, in partnership with acclaimed French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank. 


    The present model wall light as seen in Jean-Michel Frank’s boutique in Paris, circa 1935. 

    A fixture amongst the Surrealists, Giacometti drew upon the leitmotifs of the movement, employing fragmentation and iconography in his work. The present lot renders the eponymous fist holding a sconce in the precarious grasp of its finger tips. Fragmented hands were indeed a beloved and enduring emblem of the Surrealists and their successors, appearing in Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête and Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon


    Left: Still from Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête (1946). Right: Still from Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943).

    The present model wall lights were designed in 1931 and Giacometti would return to them in the following years, eventually developing a less stylized version of the template. Pairs of these later wall lights were employed to furnish important interiors of the age, most notably including Nelson Rockefeller’s apartment at 810 Fifth Avenue, New York. A mutually beneficial collaboration, Frank aspired to create volumes that embodied the “luxury of nothing.” Characteristically Frank interiors were marked by their decorous tranquility, furnished with only the most necessary works of design. 

    • Provenance

      Acquired by the present owner in 2019

    • Literature

      Charles Juliet, Giacometti, New York, 1986, p. 33 for a similar example
      Léopold Diego Sanchez, Jean-Michel Frank, Adolphe Chanaux, Paris, 1997, p. 248
      Véronique Wiesinger, Giacometti: La figure au défi, Paris, 2007, p. 43 for a similar example
      Pierre-Emmanuel Martin-Vivier, Jean-Michel Frank: The Strange and Subtle Luxury of the Parisian Haute-Monde in the Art Deco Period, New York, 2012, pp. 233, 367

    • Catalogue Essay

      The present lot is registered by the Fondation Alberto and Annette Giacometti in the online Alberto Giacometti Database (AGD) under the numbers AGD 4369 and AGD 4370.


Pair of rare "Main Tenant une Coupe" wall lights

circa 1931
Painted plaster, painted metal.
Left fist: 8 x 5 7/8 x 11 1/2 in. (20.3 x 14.9 x 29.2 cm)
Right fist: 8 1/2 x 6 x 11 in. (21.6 x 15.2 x 27.9 cm)

Reverse of one metal wall mount impressed MADE IN FRANCE. Together with a certificate of authenticity from the Comité Giacometti.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $617,400

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Green
Associate Specialist

Associate Head of Sale
+1 917 207 9090


New York Auction 7 June 2022