Alberto Giacometti - Design Evening Sale New York Tuesday, December 13, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Maître Pierre-Marie Rogeon, Expert Jean-Pierre Camard, Drouot, Paris, "Art nouveau: meubles et objets d'art par J. M. Frank & Chanaux," November 4, 1980, lot 66
    Pierre et Geneviève Hebey, Paris
    Camard & Associés, Paris, "Objets d'art, sculptures, tableaux modernes: provenant de la collection de Pierre et Geneviève Hebey," March 27, 2012, lot 24
    Galerie L’Arc en Seine, Paris, 2012
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2012

  • Literature

    Waldemar George, "Jean-Michel Frank," Art et Décoration, no. 3, 1936, p. 98
    Michel Butor, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 1985, p. 130
    Diego Giacometti, Möbel und Objekte aus Bronze, exh. cat., Museum Bellrive, 1988, Zurich, p. 31, no. 9
    Léopold Diego Sanchez, Jean-Michel Frank, Adolphe Chanaux, Paris, 1997, p. 239 for an example in gold
    Pierre-Emmanuel Martin-Vivier, Jean-Michel Frank: The Strange and Subtle Luxury of the Parisian Haute-Monde in the Art Deco Period, New York, 2006, p. 323

  • 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 1984.

    The present lot is one of a small handful of “L’Ecossaise” plaster table lamps executed in the 1930s by Alberto Giacometti, including a dark tinted example, formerly in the collection of Elsa Schiaparelli, which sold November 24, 2015 at Sotheby’s, Paris. As of the publication of this catalogue, the present lot is the only example to appear in the Alberto Giacometti Database.

    Traditionally, sculpture is realized by means of two principal techniques: carving from a hard material such as stone or wood and modelling in clay or wax. From the 1930s Alberto Giacometti, known primarily as a modelling sculptor, produced a variety of different sculptural objects, which still today are regarded as noteworthy contributions to the development of Surrealist sculpture. Exploring themes derived from Freudian psychoanalysis, like sexuality, obsession and trauma, two major areas of interests can be distinguished within the iconic œuvre of the Swiss-born artist: the investigation into the nature of the human figure—with a recurring motif embodied by the head; the manufacture of utilitarian art objects—to which this present lot significantly belongs.

    At the height of the Art Deco style, the early 1930s were a period in which there was a natural overlap between fine and decorative art. The financial crisis that struck Paris as elsewhere, had a substantial impact on artistic production and sculpture became a more difficult venture. Giacometti, with the assistance of his brother Diego, began to design a series of vases, wall lamps, table lamps, firedogs, mural bas-reliefs and other interior objects, the majority of which were sold by the avant-garde interior decorator Jean-Michel Frank.

    It is believed that Alberto Giacometti and Jean-Michel Frank were first introduced in 1928 by their mutual friend Man Ray during one of the regular Surrealist gatherings at the Salon Des Indépendants. Undeniably Frank was one of the first, along with Leiris, Bataille, and Rivière, as well as Jeanne Bucher, to discover the sculptor’s talents in the decorative arts and to recognize the potential for commercial and artistic impact. The two men, who became very close friends and frequently met to discuss and exchange opinions with the likes of Paul Rodocanachi, Salvador Dalí, Christian Bérard, Emilio Terry, Louis Argon and Marie-Laure de Noailles, had a reciprocal influence upon each other’s work and shared amongst themselves the goal of removing the superfluous in order to concentrate on the essential. Between 1932 and 1940 Giacometti was commissioned to produce seventy designs for objects, including seventeen lamps, eleven floor lamps, thirteen vases, and ten wall lights, as well as small accessories such as table runners, bowls, consoles, andirons and chimneys that the Paris decorator integrated into his now iconic interior compositions. Giacometti also created hardware, such as pinecone finials, drawer handles and doorknobs, putting his talent in the service of even the smallest details. His work became indispensable to Frank and his clients while also attracting a larger audience. Soon many of the most fashionable shops in Paris were offering his creations.

    These decorative and commercial endeavors met with some dismay from his Surrealist contemporaries. To defend his position, Giacometti claimed “the fact that I made decorative objects to earn my living for the best interior decorator of the time, Jean-Michel Frank (whom I liked very much), seemed to others like a step down. Nevertheless I tried to make a vase, for instance, as well as possible, and then I realized that I worked on a vase exactly as I would work on a sculpture and that there was absolutely no difference between what I called a sculpture and what was just a vase.” (Alberto Giacometti quoted in M. Peppiant, “In Giacometti’s studio”, 2010, p.71). Indeed Giacometti created sculptures of intense mystery during this period—many of which are considered some of the most complex and enigmatic works to have been produced by the Surrealist circle.

    The story becomes more nuanced if one includes the artist’s original plasters. For an artist such as Giacometti, who already had rejected certain more traditional modes of sculpture such as stone carving, plaster was a significant material decision that was well-received by the decorator Frank who was well known for his preference for white interiors. As the art dealer Pierre Matisse recalled, “[Frank] liked things in white and in plaster…Diego, who helped Alberto make the lamps, mounted them on metal to give them the necessary rigidity.”

    But plaster wasn’t merely an intermediate stage between clay model and the final form. It enabled Giacometti to paint and manipulate the shape of his objects in multiple ways. As seen in the present lot, traces of scrapings, scratches, and gouge marks are left intact. In fact these aspects must be considered as the actual “sculpting” of the object in question, and it is with this further reworking that Giacometti bestows upon this plaster cast his unique touch. The worked plasters are different from Giacometti’s bronzes in several aspects, not least in their fragility and their peculiar play of light and shadow. Through the combination of modelling and sculpting, they reveal the many layers of Giacometti’s concept with greater immediacy.

Property from a Private Collection


Rare "Ecossaise" table lamp

circa 1935
Painted plaster, paper shade.
Base only: 20 1/2 in. (52.1 cm) high, including shade: 32 in. (81.3 cm) high, 18 in. (45.7 cm) diameter
Together with a certificate of authenticity from the Comité Giacometti.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $193,750

Contact Specialist
Cordelia Lembo
Specialist, Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1265

Design Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 December 2016