/ 24 October 2007

Giacometti’s work-in-progress under spotlight

Swiss artist and sculptor Alberto Giacometti once bragged he could produce a work of art in just a night. But a major exhibition of his works at Paris’ George Pompidou shows that to be untrue.

Titled The Workshop of Alberto Giacometti, the show which runs until February 11 2008, aims ”to put the visitor in the workshop, to show them Giacometti’s creative process and the perpetual progress of his work”, said curator Veronique Wiesinger, who also heads the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation.

With 650 works — including 200 sculptures and painted plaster casts, 60 paintings, 170 designs, 190 photographs and documents — from the foundation, most never previously shown, the exhibit is one of the biggest to date dedicated to the artist, who was born in 1901 and died in 1966.

It also reveals a lengthy artistic process.

The work-in-progress of perhaps his most popularly known work, L’homme qui marche (Walking Man) is displayed in full, starting with a rangy silhouette sketched on one of his original workshop walls, walls which Giacometti used as gigantic drawing pads.

Set in front of the original piece of wall hung at the museum is first a plaster version of the Walking Man, further on a bronze version.

When the owners of his Paris atelier, or workshop, after his death asked wife Annette to leave in 1972, she walked away with the walls, which have not been seen since 1978.

Giacometti’s atelier was in Paris’s 14th district on the Rue Hippolyte-Maindron and the show includes photographs of the workshop.

The show also highlights his favourite themes: his brother Diego, his wife, but also heads, women with their arms lifted, the suspended ball, man and trees. He constantly returned to these themes in drawings, plaster, paintings and bronze works.

Each work remains in progress, said Wiesinger, who described how Giacometti during an exhibition in Venice repainted a plaster work that no longer belonged to him.

The couple died childless, leaving behind a lengthy legal battle mainly between the foundation, which staged the current exhibition, and the Association of Alberto and Annette Giacometti.

The dispute has involved dozens of legal actions, injunctions and appeals since Annette’s 1993 death, as the couple’s various relatives fight over who should manage the artist’s legacy.

In 2003, the foundation was declared universal heir to Annette Giacometti, but it shares its rights, five eighths to three eighths, with the artist’s Swiss family, his brother Bruno and the grandchildren of his late sister Ottilia.

The foundation currently has a collection that includes 500 sculptures and thousands of drawings and engravings as well as Giacometti’s notebooks, diaries and photos. It finances itself by selling bronze reproductions and reproduction rights.

”It is not what Annette wanted,” said Mary-Lisa Palmer, one of her former colleagues who heads the rival association. It has lodged a petition with the European Court of Human Rights challenging the foundation’s existence.

The association currently occupies a property in Paris owned by the foundation, which is trying to expel it from the building. – Sapa-AFP