Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale
06 February 2014 | London

LOTS 350 - 353

In 1929 Man Ray introduced Alberto Giacometti to the French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank. Frank’s interest in Surrealism and in incorporating Surrealist elements into interiors led to a number of collaborative commissions with both Alberto and Diego for lamps and numerous other decorative accessories. After Alberto’s death in 1966, Diego continued to develop his own expression of design in a wide variety of furnishings and objects with their own very distinct aesthetic.

Sotheby’s is privileged to offer the following four lots by Alberto and Diego Giacometti, including Alberto’s standard lamp with star (lot 351), Diego’s charming hairdresser’s chair with mouse detail (lot 350), as well as a handsome bronze armchair (lot 352) and elegant low coffee table (lot 353). All the works are iconic examples and feature the distinctive visual elements for which these decorative objects are so loved and celebrated. These works come directly from an important private collector who has built up an extensive but exquisitely curated group of these decorative works: a further twelve examples were recently offered for sale at Sotheby’s New York in November 2013, where they attracted great interest and excitement.

Diego Giacometti in his studio

Pierre-Emmanuel Martin-Vivier has spoken of the way in which Alberto ‘carried out these decorative commissions with the same integrity as his other projects’ and discussed the importance of this area of his artistic output and his influence on his brother Diego’s work in this area too: ‘his most fruitful collaboration was with Jean-Michel Frank, an interior designer with his finger on the pulse of French intellectual life and society in the interwar years. In 1930 Giacometti created over 30 objects for him, plus a number of sculptures, consoles, and chandeliers specially designed for a few privileged clients […] It was while he was assisting his brother with these objects that Diego found his own vocation. Some of Alberto’s most emblematic models were created for Frank, pieces such as […] the series of bronze standard lamps including the models Etoile, Ossellet, and Grande feuille. By sometimes creating very simple objects, Alberto found his way into the highest echelons of artistic, intellectual and society life. Indeed Frank’s clientele mostly consisted of writer friends and major collectors from both sides of the Atlantic: Jorge Born, René Crevel, Templeton Crocker, Paul Eluard, Edward James, Syrie Maugham, François Mauriac, Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, Léon Pierre-Quint, Marie-Blanche de Polignac, Nelson Rockefeller, and Elsa Schiaparelli, to mention just the most famous ones. Thanks to these contacts, Diego Giacometti was able to sell his coffee tables and consoles, whose bronze skeleton bases distantly remind us of his brother’s work’ (Pierre-Emmanuel Martin-Vivier, ‘Alberto Giacometti’s Utilitarian Objects’ in Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 2009, pp. 84-85). Vivier goes on to discuss the importance of Diego’s contribution in its own right: ‘After World War II, Diego Giacometti’s work developed with similarly romantic overtones. The same poetry can be found in his figures: bronze skeletons serving as tables, chairs, and lamps. The unexpected presence of song birds, leaves, heads of lions, frogs, and owls on the furniture, as though in the branches of a tree, gives these pieces a magical feel’ (ibid., p. 86).