20th Century Design

A Walk Among Friends - The Work of a Lifetime

By J.Gérard Bosio
Over the course of a long and accomplished career working alongside his brother Alberto, Diego’s oeuvre of sculptures and designs echoed the spare elegance of his elder sibling’s work, whilst articulating a humour and warmth all of their own. J.Gérard Bosio is a Cultural and Diplomatic Advisor and Exhibition Curator; he was close to the Giacometti brothers and a friend to Diego. Here, he recalls with intimacy to Diego's work and to his unique world of friendship.

N ot a day goes by without a thought, a word, a look, a listen, resonating within the three shared worlds that the three Giacometti brothers inhabit - Alberto, Bruno and especially Diego, the discreet, elusive inventor.

Each of these worlds is a story begun anew each day, a resurgent spring. The pillars of this temple remain family, poetry and friendship.

They are carved in the rock of heady excitements and marked with the seal of the ever-effervescent realm of childhood.

Diego Giacometti in his workshop

And so it is that we must rediscover and deepen all the research, references and analyses that Daniel Marchesseau happily brought to us first in 2005 with “the first great book that matters”. Then, in 2020 the unforgettable exhibition and seminal mural by Peter Knapp - a friend to each of them, a versatile artist - A family of creators, at the Fondation Maeght ; not to mention discovering the museums of Zurich (1998), Flims (2007), the Museum of decorative arts (1988) and Picasso Museum (2018), the Parisian exhibition Le monde fantastique de Diego Giacometti, in 2017.

Diego Giacometti, Aux oiseaux, aux feuilles et aux grenouilles console, circa 1972. Estimate €1,000,000–1,500,000.

Each Giacometti brother can readily be identified through his own singular and stunning “creative force”, but one must dig deeper to better rediscover Diego and his family. This “creative force” that supports his inventive process must be drawn out. It is then that friendship is found - which has become, over time, the tools and mortar of new creations. Each of them watches and feeds on the gaze and words of the other. Each one shares the questions and afflictions as well as the products of their talented craft, generated by the sharing and giving of knowledge.

Today, every event featuring the Giacomettis brings new insights into their multiple lives and lesser-known work. Only few witnesses remain who knew each one of them and shared in these times, enlightening us as to this world where friendship was revealed as an essential surplus of soul, an element of sharing, the ferment of creation.


Around Diego, within the first circle of friends, those who welcomed him in Paris in 1925 are often mentioned: Georges Braque, Henri Laurens. Then came Jean-Michel Frank, with his group of painters from the galleries he attended, such as Miro, Chagall and Dali. After the war and exile there were also the great gallery owners, publishers and sponsors with famous names: Matisse, Maeght, Berggruen, Kornfeld, Tériade... de Noailles, Samuel... And at all times, through great days and bad, strong seals to resist the leaks of life, we come across Sam Szafran as a faithful witness and accomplice, and his long lasting feminine attachments with Maria Helena Veira Da Silva, Rose Masson, Caroline Pigozzi and Claude Delay, the one who would be by his side to the last. And recalling Jean Leymarie, who made the climb along with the Giacometti family from the first to conquer the Needle of Beauty.

Diego Giacometti, Unique necklace holder. Estimate €40,000–60,000.

There are so many to mention, both unknown and famous, who gravitated towards Diego for a short journey or a longer one in his company. These are personal memories of my meetings and sharing with each of them. Each one in their own way is an illustration along this Walk among Friends with Diego, from the poet hotelier across the street, to the studio companion, to the poetry-loving head of state, to the New York bigwig.

They all come together in the emotion and friendship they feel for the man from Stampa, who knew better than most how to speak to nature and to others. These companions on the road, according to Diego's feelings and “outings - sudden passions”, became a part of his new fields of creation. That is what truly matters. For his friends, he invents, innovates, adapts, executes sometimes cumbersome and difficult commissions, until 1983. Now they are recorded and reflect these unique and so fruitful relationships. In parallel, or rather in harmony, there are numerous pieces, objects, ornaments, sculptures... that Diego Giacometti created specifically for one particular person or another. He sometimes set up entire houses.

Diego Giacometti, Berceau table, modèle aux chats, designed in 1970. Estimate €400,000–600,000.

He would also sculpt the hand of his friend Claude, or paint a beloved dog for Hubert de Givenchy, create a monumental library for Marc Barbezat, screens and furniture for his friends and doctors such as Maurice Tubiana or Jean-Paul Binet with an ostrich to hold painted eggs; not forgetting a trophy for a film award, the bronze sculpture of the “Dog of the Deaf Man's Villa” for another friend who shared his passion for this painting by “their master Goya”... The two pages and images of Daniel Marchesseau's Mémoire raisonnée are more than edifying and grow with each happy discovery.

These sculptures cast in bronze and the pleasure of friendship are a world unto themselves, a chapter of their own in the work of this sculptor of lives and furnishings. They are often unique, tailored to a place, a memory, a shared affection, a symbolism... We sought to open the door to Diego Giacometti's world of Friendship, to step into his more intimate universe, far from isolation, where the presence and force of feelings lead to the discovery of the imperious creation of works of Beauty.

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