By 1926, when he had been living in Paris for four years, Alberto Giacometti (Borgonovo, Switzerland, 1901-Coira, Switzerland, 1966) rented a tiny space of 23 square meters on Hippolyte-Maindron street, near Montparnasse. In this scenario, surrounded by the smoke of the three packets of cigarettes he consumed daily and avoiding the remains of bottles shared with his permanent visitors, he produced almost all the huge work that would make him one of the most relevant, influential and valued artists of the twentieth century.
In an all-out struggle to find a way to show the outside world, he sculpted his tiny, giant human figures, the busts of those who formed his familiar and friendly circle, his insistent versions of the woman. All this can be seen in the spectacular retrospective that the Guggenheim of Bilbao dedicated to the Swiss artist from this Friday until February 24, 2019. Organized in collaboration with the Giacometti Foundation of Paris and sponsored by Iberdrola, 200 works are exhibited that summarize 40 years of his career. From the Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec and the Guggenheim of New York, the exhibition offers three dazzling contributions in Bilbao and very rarely exposed to the public: the sculptural group Women of Venice, that he made for the 1956 biennial, The spoon woman (1927) and The cat of his brother Diego (1954).
Organized in chronological order but with thematic jumps, the retrospective starts with a room dominated by paintings and busts of some of the people in his most private circle: his father, the neo-impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti, his brother Diego, his wife, Anette ; her friend Simone de Beauvoir or the almost countless lovers who starred in her extensive love curriculum.
With regard to this private sphere, the assistant police station Mathilde Lacuyer-Maillé, chief curator of the Giacometti Foundation in Paris, states that the artist always felt Swiss and that he was a man who did not like to travel. "As a good Swiss, I preferred the small spaces I could control, which I could cover with my eyes. That's why he practically lived in the studio. It is hard to imagine that he could move there with all his sculptures and materials, with people posing every day and without natural light. But it was like that. Before settling in Paris he had traveled to Florence and little else. At the end of his life, he visited New York to find out where his men walking had been set up to host the Chase Manhattan Bank, a frustrated project. He returned exhausted and shortly after he died. "
The original studio, now defunct, has been rebuilt a few meters away and is currently the headquarters of the Giacometti Foundation in Paris, which houses the entire legacy of his wife, Anette Arm. He owns the documentation of almost all his work, most of the plasters, 4,000 drawings, 100 paintings and 300 sculptures. Together with the Giacometti Foundation of Zürich, created by the heirs of the artist's brothers (Diego, Bruno and Ottilia) and overcome the initial wars, they manage the rights and control the authenticity of the artist's production; a work that has suffered attempts of falsification for decades, says Lacuyer-Maillé.
In the dozen of rooms that occupy the exhibition, they go through forests of personages that demonstrate the obsession by the human figure of the teacher. Men and women whose forms go thinning by the time until being reduced to authentic tiny tricks locked in cages or aupados on big bases. In the first rooms are some of his most memorable cubist and surrealist figures, executed in his times of intense friendship with André Bretón or Pablo Picasso. The spoon woman (1927), The woman with the throat cut (1932) or Four women on a pedestal (1950), serve the police station, Petra Joos to talk about the relationship of the artist with women, an ambivalent relationship that now would not be understood very well. Giacometti supported his marriage with his lovers and was a regular visitor to brothels. "It can be said that he was a hunter. So knowledgeable of brothels, "says Joos," that he even wrote an essay about them. But, on the other hand, he had excellent relations with feminist intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir" As a result of some young mumps, could not have children, but this circumstance did not affect their relationship with their partners, in the opinion of Mathilde Lacuyer-Maillé
His constant search for the human essence is evident in the rooms in which the figures, male or female, block or solitary, seem to wander aimlessly with their feet inserted in the earth, with no possibility of raising the pace. It's those pieces that made the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre I defined him as "the perfect existentialist artist, halfway between being and nothingness". In this area, one of the three existing versions of Walking man (Homme qui marche, 1960), one of his best known works and one of the most famous sculptures of the twentieth century, after breaking all records in 2010 to be auctioned for 74 million euros.
Here takes advantage of Lacuyer-Maillé to remember that the number of originals of a sculpture is the decision of the artist and his gallery owner in agreements signed by both parties. "The usual was a minimum of three and a maximum of nine. What is not acceptable is that once the artist is dead, the molds continue to be used to put new works on the market. That's impossible".
The culmination of the exhibition is worthy of the spectacular tour. Next to the railing from which the imposing steel installation by Richard Serra can be seen, The matter of time, a tiny figure about three centimeters tall, Little man on a pedestal (1945), to invite you to think about the different forms that can exist when apprehending reality.