The Spirit of the Twentieth Century, sculptures, paintings, drawings
A cura di Michael Peppiatt
5 March - 19 June 2011
Sculptures, paintings and drawings by Alberto Giacometti, mainly drawn from the heirs’ private collection that has never previously been exhibited in Europe in its entirety since it left the Paris studio of one of 20th Century art’s great icons. Other loans have been made by the GNAM in Rome and an important private collection.
The MAGA in Gallarate will be hosting the works of Giacometti from 5 March through to 5 June in an exhibition organized and produced by the Fondazione Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Silvio Zanella, presided over by Angelo Crespi and directed by Emma Zannella. The exhibition is curated by Michael Peppiatt, author of In Giacometti’s Studio, a book in which he documents his examination of the previously unexplored archive of one of the branches of the family, research that also underpins this in-depth review.
Giacometti’s heirs gave Michael Peppiatt permission to examine their collection in order to publish as the culmination of his research a new book that together with the exhibition catalogue constitute a boxed set that the MAGA together with Electa is publishing on the occasion of the exhibition. As Peppiatt says, “this is material that sheds new light on the working method of Giacometti, “afflicted” as he was by a kind of compulsive sketching.” So much so that he was sketching nudes of Christine Keeler, the showgirl who had the British establishment trembling in the Sixties when she was revealed as the lover of the Tory minister John Profumo, on the front page of France Soir. Dated 1963, the paper opened with an article on the spicy affair. Reporting that evidently inspired the Swiss artist and stimulated his urge to draw. “There is something very intimate about these works”, Peppiatt remarked in the Observer. “They allowed me to choose from 300 drawings. I was deeply moved. I felt that Giacometti was almost there with me, as if his drawings were dropping from his hands.
He sketched everywhere: on the pages of books, bits of paper in cafes.” Another example of these rapid sketches is found on a page torn from L’Express on which the artist scribbled over the photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John Kennedy. Alongside, Giacometti repeatedly wrote the Italian word continuare as well as working notes: “the busts were made quickly, and a painted this evening, the drawings rapidly”. “Drawing”, explains Peppiatt, “was a form of instinctive thinking for him.
He was never without a pencil in his hand or a fag in his mouth.”
The sculptures portray what were always the artist's favourite subjects: his father, his mother, his wife Annette, his sister Ottilia, his nephew Silvio and his brothers Diego and Bruno. The portrait of Bruno from 1937, for example, reveals through its tormented modelling the difficulty of finding a form that corresponded to the artist's vision, clearly not in an optical-scientific sense, of the human figure. The bust of Ottilia is also from 1937, sculpted after the tragic death of his sister and perhaps for this reason a precocious example of that reductionist phase that Giacometti passed through in the 1940s: in this period the figures became minute, almost disappearing above their pedestal. A second group instead presents a representative sample of works from the post-war years: full male and female figures, a Homme qui marche, a Femme debout from 1952, full figure, stationary, corroded and evanescent, a Femme de Venise and various busts of the artist’s wife Annette.
The paintings, lastly, reflect the family theme seen in the sculptural works with portraits of Ottilia, Giacometti’s nephew Silvio and his friends Jacques Dupin and Professor Corbetta, all portrayed frontally, evanescent like the works of Bacon.
The works chosen cover Giacometti’s entire artistic career, while many aspects of the exhibition focus on an intimate side to the artist, as one might expect of a collection owned by Giacometti’s family.
An extensive documentary section completes the exhibition. Numerous photographs show the artist at work and reveal his relationships, bringing to life an exceptional artistic figure.
For the occasion, the MAGA, together with Electa, is publishing an exclusive boxed set of the Italian translation of the book by Michael Peppiatt In Giacometti’s Studio and the complete catalogue of the works in the exhibition with critical texts by Casimiro Di Crescenzo.
In addition, an exclusive sound commentary will accompany visitors to the exhibition, bringing them into direct contact with the artist’s world. The MAGA, in partnership with Storyville, has created and produced fascinating audio guides in which, through a series of interviews, the voice of Alberto Giacometti himself explains his works and the entire exhibition.
The exhibition opens under: Filosofarti, Festival of Philosophy PHYSIS NATURE (February 27 - March 7, 2011), Gallarate; Gallarate City Cultural Foundation 1860, the Cultural Center of the Arts Theater, Gallarate