Alberto Giacometti at Moderna Museet: Face to Face

Alberto Giacometti, Spoon Woman, 1927
Alberto Giacometti
Femme cuillère, 1927
Coll. Fondation Giacometti Paris – © Estate of Alberto Giacometti / Bildupphovsrätt 2020

Alberto Giacometti forged a singular path within European modernism, restlessly seeking a new language for sculpture as a “double of reality”. Today, his elongated, pared-down figures have become iconic. Moderna Museet’s latest exhibition Giacometti – Face to Face is the first large-scale presentation of Giacometti’s work in Sweden in over twenty years and Moderna Museet’s Director Gitte Ørskou predicts the exhibition to be a future classic.

From relatively early on Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) was counted among the major interpreters of the post-war era and today his fragile and pared-down figures are associated with the image of a broken humanity. The notion of Giacometti as an artist who lived an isolated life, uninterested in his times, has been cultivated over the years, following the pattern of the artist genius. Giacometti’s daily life, however, was naturally different and his work was influenced by the ideas that were circulating in Paris, a city that before the war had been a hub for artists and intellectuals from all over the world. There were three friendships in particular – with the writers Georges Bataille, Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett – that came to have a great impact on Alberto Giacometti. In Moderna Museet’s latest exhibition Giacometti – Face to Face the curators Jo Widoff from Moderna Museet, and Christian Alandete from Fondation Giacometti, Paris, set out to trace their shared motives and how their dialogues, and the discourses that formed them, left their mark on Giacometti’s work.

Alberto Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, a village in Switzerland, on 10 October 1901, and moved to Paris at the age of twenty-one to study sculpture under Antoine Bourdelle at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Although Giacometti was never completely convinced by any particular artistic grouping, he exhibited his early, latently violent and erotic objects with the Surrealists. He went his own way and instead of looking to abstract art, which dominated Paris at the time, he cast his gaze further back in time – to Prehistoric art, Egyptian tomb paintings and Sumerian stone reliefs. As an artist, Giacometti was preoccupied with his own inadequacy in the face of reality. When working with a model he tried time and again to find a “likeness” between art and reality, restlessly seeking a new language for sculpture. By feeling his way forward with hands and thumbs in clay and plaster, he came to change our view of sculpture.

Giacometti – Face to Face encompasses over 110 sculptures, paintings and drawings and is the first large-scale retrospective of Giacometti’s work in Sweden in twenty years. The exhibition is organised in close collaboration with Fondation Giacometti in Paris, which has enabled the loan of more than a hundred objects, including several key works. Among them are early Surrealist sculptures, paintings, and the tall, now iconic figures in plaster and bronze from later on in his career. Many of Giacometti’s artworks have never been shown in Sweden and several works have rarely been exhibited publicly.