Alberto Giacometti - Design New York Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | Phillips

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  • The Étoile table lamp, designed in 1936, subtly manifests the primordial tendencies of Alberto Giacometti’s celebrated practice. With its intentionally uneven surface treatment, the lamp appears to the viewer as a precious artifact uncovered during an archaeological dig.  The resulting effect is a fixture that bespeaks the avant-garde taste of its original collectors, as well as Giacometti’s capacity for effortlessly fusing modern and primeval forms. Giacometti designed this work prior to the sculptures for which he is most known, works marked by their elongated yet distinctly figurative forms, which seem to belong to a past time and civilization. 
    "For my livelihood, I accepted to make anonymous utilitarian objects for a decorator at that time, Jean-Michel Frank…I realized I was developing a vase exactly as I would a sculpture and that there was no difference between what I called sculpture and what was an object!"
    —Alberto Giacometti
    The Étoile lamp foregrounds these later pieces, similarly raising questions on the layering of time and form. Giacometti designed this model, along with approximately 100 other utilitarian objects, for French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank. 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. The Étoile lamp indeed proved requisite, not only for providing light, but also for its sculptural form.

    • Provenance

      Private collection, London
      Christie's, New York, "Design," June 10, 2015, lot 48
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Gaston Diehl, “Le 32e Salon des Artistes Décorateurs,” Art et Décoration, 1946, p. 46
      Léopold Diego Sanchez, Jean-Michel Frank, Paris, 1980, p. 200
      Daniel Marchesseau, Diego Giacometti, Catalogue de l'œuvre, Paris, 1986, p. 32
      François Baudot, Jean-Michael Frank, New York, 1999, p. 76
      Pierre-Emmanuel Martin-Vivier, Jean-Michel Frank: The Strange and Subtle Luxury of the Parisian Haute-Monde in the Art Deco Period, New York, 2008, p. 347

    • 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 3483.

Property from an Important Midwest Collection


"Étoile" table lamp

designed circa 1935, later cast
Patinated bronze, paper shade.
Cast: 15 7/8 in. (40.3 cm) high
Including shade: 26 in. (66 cm) high

Cast by Diego Giacometti. Side of one foot impressed Diego DG and underside impressed AG 014 by the Comité Giacometti. Together with a certificate of authenticity from the Comité Giacometti.

Full Cataloguing

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $189,000

Contact Specialist


New York Auction 7 December 2021