Giacometti brothers lead Bonhams sale with two masterpieces

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Giacometti brothers lead Bonhams sale with two masterpieces
Diego Giacometti (1902-1985), Carcasse a la Chauve-Souris Table, circa 1965. Estimate: $300,000 – 500,000. Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- Two exemplary works by Alberto and Diego Giacometti will lead Bonhams Modern Decorative Art & Design Sale on Friday, June 11 in New York. The items on offer include a 1930s Tete de Femme Floor Lamp by legendary sculptor Alberto Giacometti and a Carcasse a la Chauve-Souris Table made thirty years later by younger brother Diego Giacometti. Each lot is estimated at $300,000 – 500,000.

Alberto Giacometti stands as one of the most important artists of the 20th century, widely known for his exploration of the human condition through bronze sculpture. Initially drawn to art and design due to the influence of his father, Swiss Impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti, Alberto established his studio in Paris in 1922 and spent the first decade of his career experimenting with Cubism and Surrealism. In 1929, Alberto met influential dealer and designer, Jean-Michel Frank who encouraged him to work on a series of decorative artworks for his interior design projects. This led to a successful working relationship between the two throughout the 1930s; the lamp on offer is a product of this collaboration. Featuring a delicate female head—thought to be his muse and lover, Isabel Rawsthorne—atop on a narrow yet curvaceous base, the work is a wonderful example of classic Alberto Giacometti design.

Diego Giacometti began his design career as his older brother’s assistant, working under Alberto in his Paris studios for many years. Whereas Alberto seemed to find his calling early on, only after a decades-long apprenticeship did Diego unearth an artistic voice that was truly his own. In the mid-1950s, stylistic nuances can be seen cropping up within Diego’s work; these would soon come to define his fantastic oeuvre. In the 1960s, Diego’s prolific output had developed a signature aesthetic, and for the next ten years he produced his most sophisticated and important work, including the table on offer.

The Carcasse a la Chauve-Souris Table, which comes with a certificate of authenticity from Gilles Perrault, Paris, has not come to market since leaving Giacometti’s Paris studio. The original buyer, renowned furniture dealer Robert S. Walker, contemporary and friend of both Giacometti brothers, is widely credited as the visionary connoisseur and tastemaker that popularized 20th century French decorative arts amongst North America's collecting elite. Following its initial 1965 sale, the table remained within Walker’s inner circle; the dealer gave it to his mother, who then gifted it to her sister-in-law and her husband. In 1995 it was passed along to close family friend Robert Kelsey, who has held it until present day.

Bonhams Global Head of Modern Decorative Art & Design Benjamin Walker commented, “The Giacometti brothers are without a doubt the most highly celebrated pair of siblings within the world of modern design. Born just thirteen months apart, the two worked alongside one another for the greater part of their lives, playing formative roles in each other’s practices in different ways—Alberto, the visionary and established older brother, and Diego, the talented and dedicated craftsman. Both works on offer in our June sale embody the finest of the Giacomettis. The spirit of the thin figurative sculptures that have led to Alberto’s international acclaim shines within his Tete de Femme Floor Lamp. And the Carcasse a la Chauve-Souris Table is a wonderful example of the finest Diego Giacometti furniture, with intricate detailing inspired by nature, a classic marker of the designer. Created around the time of his brother’s passing, the piece is wrought with emotion and an absolutely exquisite representation of Diego’s wonderful body of work, carrying with it an outstanding provenance as well.”

The sale is also highlighted by Deux Poissons (estimate: $50,000 – 70,000), a fantastic work by internationally acclaimed and highly decorated Swiss animalier sculptor Edouard-Marcel Sandoz, recipient of France’s highest order of merit, the Legion of Honour. Deux Poissons comes from Sandoz’s series of fish sculptures, which according to Sladmore Gallery are considered to be amongst his most famous and highly regarded works in that they “illustrate a striking combination of anatomical detail and modern stylisation as well as a high level of technical skill.”

Four known versions of Deux Poissons exist; the example on offer is the largest of the group. The work comes to Bonhams just one season after the highly successful sale of another fish sculpture, Lalanne’s Carpe (Très Grande), which achieved $2,430,313 against an initial estimate of $650,000-850,000 in New York’s Modern Decorative Art + Design Sale on December 17, 2020. Les Lalanne, well-recognized for their highly coveted animal-themed works, were heavily influenced by Sandoz, who preceded the duo by a generation and has established his legacy as the original animalier sculptor.

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