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  • Overview 

    'Giacometti was an artist both rooted in the exact and transported by the visionary. He was both a maker and a seer, both a craftsman and an alchemist.'
    —Colm Tóibín 
    In 1949, Alberto Giacometti's sculptural practice underwent a subtle yet decisive shift. Following his marriage to Annette Arm that year, the Swiss artist began making his gem-like sculptures slightly larger, whilst simultaneously retaining the spirit of what had by now become an instantly recognisable mark: narrow, almost filament-thin silhouettes. That year, Giacometti also ceased to create his figures from memory, instead anchoring himself in reality, and taking his new wife as primary subject matter. Conceived in 1953, Nu debout II materialises the initial stages of this stylistic evolution, with Annette rising just 50cm tall — a departure from the matchstick sized creations that dominated his sculptural practice from 1938 to 1944 — and her body displaying a slender figure at the centre, embellished with distinctly feminine features. Indeed, Annette's wavy hair, curvaceous shapes, and overall hourglass figure places her in an indexical realm that eschews strict abstraction — she is a presence imbued with character, perhaps more individuated than Giacometti's other female figures. While the original plaster of the present work belongs to the Alberto Giacometti Foundation, another example from the edition resides at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of Washington, signifying the importance of the present work.

     

    Alberto Giacometti in his studio, Paris, 1954.  Image: Sabine Weiss. © The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2021.
    Alberto Giacometti in his studio, Paris, 1954. Image: Sabine Weiss. © The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2021.

     

    Illustrious Provenance

     

    In addition to its scintillating subject matter, testifying to the special status of the present work, Nu debout II is distinguished by its exceptional provenance. Indeed, before being acquired by the present owner, the sculpture resided in the collection of the famed Pittsburgh industrialist G. David Thompson, whose patronage of Giacometti's work greatly contributed to the artist's perennial success. During his lifetime, Thompson was the owner of the largest Giacometti collection in the world, and the force behind the creation of a fund which served as groundwork for the initiation of the Giacometti Foundation in 1965, when he sold a large portion of his collection to various Swiss dealers, with the help of the eminent gallery owner Ernst Beyeler. Alongside Giacometti's work, Thompson assembled a visionary collection of modern art that included the works of masters such as Paul Klee, Kurt Schwitters, Piet Mondrian, Georges Braque, and others. With its seminal subject matter and its superb finish, Nu debout II is an exquisite gem to have resurfaced from his discerning collection. Since it was acquired from Tokyo's Contemporary Sculpture Center in 1978, Nu debout II has resided in the same Japanese collection.

     

    Art collector G. David Thompson examining a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti. Image:  Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images. © The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2021.
    Art collector G. David Thompson examining a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti. Image: Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images. © The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2021.

     

    A Watershed Moment

     

    In 1953, Giacometti also began garnering more critical and commercial momentum. After having experienced a rapid rise to fame in the United States through two exhibitions at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York City in 1948 and 1950, the artist would, a year after the execution of Nu debout II, obtain his first monographic exhibition in a museum, in Santa Barbara, California. Two years later, in 1955, he would be the subject of two simultaneous retrospectives — one at the Arts Council in London, organised by the British curator David Sylvester, and the other at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, presenting the artist's work in the institution's former quarters on New York's Fifth Avenue. With its distinct subject matter and its wonderfully evocative form, Nu debout II is a sumptuous work to surface from this prolific and inspired period of Giacometti's artistic practice.

  • An Eternal Muse

     

    A life partner and a constant source of inspiration, Annette Arm is one of the most painted and sculpted models within Giacometti's oeuvre. 'Annette was a passionate person, funny and surprising', wrote Paola Carola, Giacometti's only surviving model. 'But above all she was in love with Alberto and his work. She looked after his sculptures with a love that flooded the studio'. Reciprocally, and as exemplified by Nu debout II, Giacometti infused loving sentiments in his sculptures emulating his wife's likeness. 'When working on a female figure in clay [Giacometti's] fingers would run up and down the sculpture, pinching, gouging, scraping, caressing, as if they responded to a will of their own, independent of the incidental artist'. Exuding a blend of pristine tenderness and carnal immediacy, Nu debout II evidences Giacometti's soulful touch.

    'Annette was a passionate person, funny and surprising. But above all she was in love with Alberto and his work. She looked after his sculptures with a love that flooded the studio.' —Paola Carola 

    Alberto Giacometti with Annette Arm at his studio in Paris, France 1962.  Photo: Wolfgang Kuhn/United Archives via Getty Images.
    Alberto Giacometti with Annette Arm at his studio in Paris, France 1962. Photo: Wolfgang Kuhn/United Archives via Getty Images.

     

    The Essence of A Presence


    In Nu debout II, Annette Arm is a solid yet ephemeral vision, simultaneously discreet and commanding, disappearing and physically imposing. This physiological paradox precedes her physical constitution, as Giacometti similarly made use of the presence and absence of space during the sculpting process. Indeed, to conceive his idiosyncratic works, the artist would build up the figure and then remove matter, gradually, until arriving to a form that satisfied him. In other words, his method of construction entailed systemic deconstruction — his sculpting transforming into an act of excavation. 'He was concerned to create, as he worked, illusions of monumentality', explained Colm Tóibín. 'Even if the scale was, or seemed to be, small, he was not a minimalist'. In Nu debout II, Giacometti's play with scale is evident, as Annette's timidly rising silhouette exudes tremendous emotional force despite its small size.

    'His figures are capable of a presence that is almost philosophical, or at least they have some sense in their aura that they represent the human dilemma, human frailty, human pride.' —Colm Tóibín 

     

    Of The Moment

     

    • This summer, Phillips will be the lead sponsor for the upcoming Giacometti exhibition at Fondation Maeght, The Giacometti: A Family of Creators, running from 3 July to 14 November 2021. For this show, guest curator Peter Knapp proposes to showcase the talent and originality of the whole Giacometti family through a variety of cross-category works including thirty major sculpture pieces, drawings, paintings, film and archived photographs and objects.

     

    • Giacometti is currently the subject of an important exhibition, Face to Face, at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

    • Provenance

      Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the artist in 1954)
      G. David Thompson, Pittsburgh (acquired from the above in 1954)
      Private Collection
      Contemporary Sculpture Center, Japan (acquired in 1973)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1978

    • Exhibited

      New York, James Goodman Gallery, Fall 1972 (present cast exhibited)
      Tokyo, Gallery Seibu; Kobe, Museum of Modern Art, Hyogo; Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefectural Art Museum, Alberto Giacometti, exposition au Japon, 1 September 1973 - 15 January 1974, no. 40, n.p. (present cast exhibited and illustrated; erroneously titled Femme debout)
      Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art; Sendai, Miyagi Prefectural Art Museum; Gifu Prefectural Art Museum; Kurashiki, Ohara Museum of Art; Yokohama Municipal Gallery, Alberto Giacometti, 10 September 1983 - 11 March 1984, no. 136, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated)

    • Literature

      Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1971, p. 308 (another example illustrated, p. 197)
      Michael Peppiatt, In Giacometti's Studio, New Haven, 2010 (another example illustrated on the front cover)

Property from an Important Japanese Private Collection

Ο ◆10

Nu debout II

incised with the artist's signature, numbered and dated '1953 Alberto Giacometti 1/6' on the left side of the base
bronze
50 x 12 x 16.5 cm (19 5/8 x 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 in.)
Conceived and cast in bronze in 1953 by Fonderie Rota-Gay, Paris, this work is number 1 from an edition of 6 plus 1 plaster example. This work is recorded in the Alberto Giacometti Database under no. 4292 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Comité Giacometti.

The plaster example is in the permanent collection of the Fondation Giacometti, Paris. Another example from this edition is in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for £1,813,300

Contact Specialist

 

Rosanna Widén
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+ 44 20 7318 4060
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Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+ 44 20 7318 4099
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 April 2021