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Giacometti – legendary figure in 20th century art

Giacometti – legendary figure in 20th century art

A major exhibition of the work of Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) opens at the Christchurch Art Gallery this Friday, 17 November.

Giacometti is renowned for his strikingly emaciated figures which, through their gaunt beauty and vulnerable isolation, captured the complexity of the human condition in the 20th century. The exhibition pays tribute to the artist by showing a compelling group of sculptures, prints and drawings depicting the elongated figures for which he is most renowned.

“Giacometti’s relentless investigation of the human figure led him to be regarded as one of the most inventive and original sculptors of 20th century art and this is the first time a major exhibition of his life and art has been exhibited in the southern hemisphere. Christchurch has been fortunate to partner with Sydney to bring this exhibition here”, says gallery director, Jenny Harper.

Showing exclusively in New Zealand at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu from 17 November 2006 to 25 February 2007, GIACOMETTI: sculptures, prints and drawings from the Maeght Foundation is arguably the most important exhibition of sculpture ever to be seen in New Zealand. The exhibition was developed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and is drawn from the collection of the Maeght Foundation in Saint Paul-de-Vence, France. It features 35 sculptures, 22 drawings and 22 prints.

“This is a rare opportunity to see Giacometti’s unforgettable and haunting sculptures in New Zealand and gain an insight into his creative genius,” says gallery curator Felicity Milburn.

Milburn says the intense, elongated figures, some standing alone, others in silent groupings, are legendary achievements in representing the human condition in the twentieth century. They affirm the power of the artist’s imagination and creativity in transforming observations of people into works that have an extraordinary physical and emotional presence. Milburn says the fragile, emaciated forms of Giacometti’s sculptures are seen by some as a metaphor for the devastation wrought on humanity during and after World War Two.

“Giacometti’s drawings and sculptures are powerful and often disconcerting investigations of what it means to be a living, breathing human being.”

GIACOMETTI: Sculptures, prints and drawings from the Maeght Foundation represents works from the two most intense phases of the artist’s career – the surrealist period from 1929 to 1934 and the post-war period from 1947 to 1965 – representing the full developmental range of his natural style.

Born in Stampa, Switzerland. Giacometti spent most of his life in Paris, surrounded by the intellectual and artistic debates of the post-war period, socialising with the likes of Picasso, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet and the existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

“There are several significant works in the show but two particular highlights are the nine sculptures from the Femme de Venice (Women of Venice) series of 1956 and two large sculptures from the iconic Walking Man series of 1960”, says Milburn.

“Both are instantly recognisable as Giacometti’s work, and these images have become synonymous with his name.” She says the inclusion of prints and drawings emphasises the importance of drawing as integral to the creation of Giacometti’s sculpture.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue and a variety of special events including a Symposium on Sunday 10 December, lectures, tours, films, drawing workshop and a floor talk.


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