Posts Tagged ‘Alberto Giacometti’

Art | Derain, Balthus, Giacometti: A Reality Check

Friday, July 28th, 2017

King of the Cats, 1935, Balthus
Oil on canvas.
Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts
de Lausanne, Suisse.
Gift of la Fondation Balthus
Klossowski de Rola, 2016.
© Balthus © Nora Rupp,
Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts
de Lausanne, Suisse

Derain, Balthus, Giacometti:
An Artistic Friendship
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
Paris | France
Until 29 October 2017

Self-portrait, 1920,
Alberto Giacometti

Oil on canvas.
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel.
Photo Robert Bayer / Beyeler Collection,
© Succession Alberto Giacometti
(Fondation Alberto et Annette
Giacometti, Paris & ADAGP, Paris), 2017

It’s really worthwhile travelling to mainland European cities to see exhibitions such as this one. They don’t usually travel, and at first sight, they might appear parochial but they provide an insight into the lesser-known aspects of the development of modern art, and are of enormous significance when looked at in a broader context.

The rather benign title belies the fascinating story of how much more than ‘friendship’ bound, André Derain (1880 > 1954), Balthus (1908 > 2001) and Alberto Giacometti (1901 > 1966) together. Having developed their talents independently, as artists in 1930s Paris they discovered a shared passion for the realism of the present, but also for figurative tradition, that would inform the work they produced throughout their careers and exert a long-lasting influence on artists outside of France from the 30s right up to the present.

André Derain, born near Paris and the eldest of the trio, is reputed to have been involved with Henri Matisse and Maurice Vlaminck, in the development of Fauvism. Having seen the Negro Sculpture exhibition in London in 1920, Derain was one of the first artists to begin collecting African tribal art and probably inspired Picasso and Braque to introduce primitive elements to Cubism. By the 1920s, however, he had put aside his own pre-war experimentation and, working in a style that reflected his admiration for the Old Masters, was bent on trying to depict modern life more realistically, while imbuing it with symbolic meaning, by using voluptuous colour, poetic allusions and visual wit. In the process, he drew respect from a younger generation of artists that would include Balthus, who he first met in 1933, and Giacometti.

Of Polish aristocratic descent, Balthasar Klossowski, who became known by his childhood nickname ‘Balthus’ (in later life he preferred to be referred to as the Count de Rola) was born in Paris. Typically uncompromising, in a 1998 interview with Le Figaro, a few years before his death, Balthus, described how ‘False art lovers, speculators, buy what they cannot understand…’ and that, ‘This phenomenon has favoured the emergence of the dictatorship of non-figurative art, to which the no less repulsive Expressionist, Surrealist and Minimalist dictatorships are opposed, all making equal promises of unpleasant rebirths… When I paint,’ he told the newspaper’s readers, ‘I don’t seek to express myself but the world.’

Balthus’s cultured upbringing, between France and Switzerland and travels in Germany, brought him into contact with well-known writers and also with the Symbolist painter Pierre Bonnard, whose paintings, along with those of the Renaissance artists, Piero della Francesca, Ucello and Masaccio that he studied in Italy, would significantly influence the work he would go on to produce himself. The series of paintings of scenes of daily indoor and outdoor life, and portraits that first established his reputation as an artist in Paris, contained elements of the fantastic realism practiced by the German Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) artists George Grosz, Otto Dix and Max Beckman, but also revealed a strong appreciation for the values of the Parisian Forces Nouvelles group, which, like Derain, eschewed abstraction and the surrealist tendencies sweeping through Paris in favour of the revival of draughtsmanship and realism.

The Artist and his Family,
1920-21, André Derain

Oil on canvas.
Collection particulière,
© Ted Dillard.
Photo © ADAGP, Paris 2017

Alberto Giacometti’s father, Giovanni was a respected impressionist painter, however symbolist painting would exert a strong influence on the work Alberto began to produce as an adolescent in Switzerland. Having begun studying in Paris in 1922, he would fall under the influence of Fernand Léger. In 1928, having become enveloped by his interest in African and Oceanic artefacts, he embarked on a series of sculptures of women and flat heads. Inspired by the death of his father – his dramatic Head-Skull of 1934 showed strong African and Oceanic influences.

Derain, Balthus and Giacometti moved in Paris’s Surrealist circles (only Giacometti joined the Surrealist group – in 1931: he was expelled in 1935), rubbing shoulders on the city’s Left Bank with the likes of Jean Cocteau and Albert Camus. In 1933, André Breton visited Balthus’ studio but was disappointed by the naturalism in the work he saw. However, the following year, when Balthus had his first Paris show at Pierre Loeb’s eponymous Galerie Pierre, Breton could not remain indifferent to the power of the erotic scenes that Balthus had painted (La Toilette de Cathy was shown behind a curtain at the rear of the gallery) and, while accepting their differences, recognised the formidable strength of Balthus’s artistic spirit and values. It was a watershed moment. Derain and Giacometti had also attended the show, the success of which, along with the recognition it generated served to cement their friendship with Balthus, and to underscore the trio’s conviction to forge ahead with their exploration of realism. Giacometti was especially affected; his African and Oceanic style was soon displaced by a more traditional and realistic approach that would remain present even in the haunted figures of his post World War II works.

Mainly focused on the years 1930 to 1960, Derain, Balthus, Giacometti: An Artistic Friendship at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris includes 350 works (paintings, sculptures, works on paper and photographs) testifying to the dense criss-crossing of ideas that passed between the three.

All images courtesy Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris

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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being made available to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Meret Oppenheim

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Meret Oppenheim Retrospective
Berlin, Germany
16th August – 1st December, 2013

On a visit to Berlin this spring I went to the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum to see their tremendously well staged Kosmos Farbe exhibition, in which the two Swiss-born Bauhaus masters Johannes Itten and Paul Klee’s work was carefully arranged to allow for comparison and contrast. The same venue will host Meret Oppenheim: Retrospective, the first ever major retrospective of the Berlin-born (1913) artist, brought up in Switzerland.

Oppenheim studied in Basel, where she saw an exhibition of Bauhaus work that included some by Paul Klee that inspired her to produce a series of pen and ink drawings in a school notebook – her own first surrealist work – which proved to be the catalyst for her move to Paris in 1932 to attend the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Meeting André Breton gained her the entré she had sought to the surrealist circle, with whom she would exhibit her own work for the first time the following year; a year which would see Man Ray posing her nude with an etching press, in a famous series of photographs that includes Erotique voilée (1933, above).

Named after Meretlein, a wild child who lives in the woods in Gottfried Keller’s novel Der Grüne Heinrich (The Green Henry), Oppenheim was quickly adopted by the group whose members, including Alberto Giacometti, (Jean) Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia and Dora Maar, identified her as the perfect embodiment of the surrealist woman, the femme-enfant through whose youth, naivety and charm, they believed had direct access to the world of dreams and the unconscious. Produced decades later her self-portrait, Skull and Ornament (1964) – an x-ray image of her head in profile, complete with large, ringed earrings – might be interpreted as the artist allowing us a glimpse of this mythical inner persona.

Oppenheim returned to Basel in 1937, entering a period of personal and artistic crisis, during which she worked sporadically, destroyed much and even went back to art school. When she began working in earnest again in the 1950s, she produced works based mainly on earlier sketches. Her painting Schwarze Strich-Figur vor Gelb, (above), produced between 1960 and 1981, is a clear reference to her original inspiration, Paul Klee’s work.

Linking her firmly to her surrealist friends, her humorous treatments of everyday materials in odd combinations, often suggestive of metamorphosis, would become some of the distinctive features of her work. However, Oppenheim wasn’t in it just for laughs. She became well-known for her emancipatory, non-conformist attitude and her critical approach to gender stereotyping, making her a central role model for 20th century women artists. ‘Freedom isn’t given to you – you have to take it’, she said, summing up her stance in 1975. And, right up to her death in Basel in 1985, the artist’s work courted controversy. When the city of Bern, famous for its traditional fountains commissioned her to design her Tour-fontaine (in Waisenhausplatz), inaugurated in 1983, and produced when she was already entering her seventies, residents queued up to sign petitions demanding its removal.

Celebrated by the surrealists as ‘the fairy woman whom all men desire’, much of Meret Oppenheim’s better known pieces are loaded with latent erotic content, which might provide some explanation as to why, when I was at the tender age of 15, in 1970, perhaps unsure of whether he should be showing us it, our very bright and progressive art teacher, closed the door firmly and pulled down the window blinds – it was a winter evening and already dark outside – prior to projecting Oppenheim’s iconic Objet (1936), the fur cup, saucer and spoon, on to a wall, introducing our single sex class to surrealism. Art critic Robert Hughes called it ‘the most intense and abrupt image of lesbian sex in the history of art.’ Years later, when I was studying graphics at London’s Royal College of Art, in a clever and poignant reminder of Objet, my contemporary, the late John Hind – who began working at British Vogue before he’d even finished the course, and would within a few short years become the magazine’s art director – in homage to the artist, made a fur purse as a container for a lipstick, the bright red tip provocatively poking out.

Images from top
Man Ray photograph f
rom the series Erotique voilée  mit handschriftlich
markierten Ausschnitten des Künstlers
, 1933
Galerie 1900–2000, Paris
©Man Ray Trust, Paris / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim, Pelzhandschuhe, 1936
Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland
Photo Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim, Schwarze Strich-Figur vor Gelb, 1960–1981
Private collection, Bern
Photo Peter Lauri, Bern
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Margrit Baumann photograph,
M.O. mit Sechs Wolken auf einer Brücke, 1977, Bern 1982
©Photo Margrit Baumann
Archiv Christiane Meyer-Thoss, Frankfurt am Main

Meret Oppenheim, Eichhörnchen, 1969
Private collection, Montagnola
Photo Peter Lauri, Bern

©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim. Retrospective
Hatje Cantz Verlag
Editors: Heike Eipeldauer, Ingried Brugger, Gereon Sievernich
312 pages, 364 images
Museum edition €25

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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Sculpture | Alexander Calder: The Swedish Collection

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Contemporary Art Evening Auction
London, UK
Sale: 12th February, 2013
Exhibition: 9th-12th February, 2013

Red Skeleton, 1945
Painted metal and wire standing mobile
Estimate £150,000 – 200,000

Untitled, 1954
Painted metal and wire standing mobile
Estimate £150,000 – 200,000

Red Yellow and White, 1955
Painted metal and wire standing mobile
Estimate £150,000 – 200,000

The Red Base, 1969
Painted metal and wire standing mobile
Estimate £150,000 – 200,000

A large collection of modern and contemporary art assembled by an unnamed Swedish individual that includes works by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Natalia Goncharova and Tom Wesselman will be sold at Sotheby’s over the coming months.

Four delightful Alexander Calder pieces from the Swede’s collection are the opening lots in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction, and are amongst a phenomenal list of prized items from a wide variety of other sources, alongside which – as with all items exhibited in the viewing galleries – they can be viewed, free of charge.

Calder (1898 – 1976) was immensely popular in Sweden during the 1960s and 70s, when this collection was being assembled, and interestingly – an indication of the country’s particularly receptive attitude to modernism during the post-war period – the first donation to the Moderna Museet, which opened in Stockholm in 1958, had been a Calder.

These four items, all of them miniatures – the largest 40.3 x 30.5 x 10.5cm/15 7/8 x 12 x 4 1/8 inches – have a red theme, and were produced at intervals between 1945 and 1969. Also in this sale is another and unrelated Alexander Calder piece, produced around 1927, and typical of his earlier work, a wire figure on a wooden base, representing John D Rockerfeller – a clever homage to one of the USA’s most recognisable businessmen, the great philanthropist is gently caricatured in a golfing pose. Following a visit to Mondrian’s studio in 1930, Calder made his first wholly abstract compositions and invented the moving kinetic sculptures, dubbed mobiles by Marcel Duchamp, in 1931. By 1943, following a major retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Calder had begun seeking a way of creating more complex sculptural forms. Red Skeleton, produced in 1945, and the earliest of the sale items, dates from this period of experimentation and exhibits Calder’s new technique of piercing alternating planes. The use of wire and coloured organic forms in this and the other three works, imbues them with irrepressible energy and demonstrates the sculptor’s vituoso technical prowess. Calder was an artist with an extraordinary zest for life: his bright, joyful colours were an invitation to everyone to enjoy his work as much as he enjoyed making it.

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Collectors, Marcel Brient & Hélène Rochas

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Marcel Brient Collection
– La Page Française
Sotheby’s, Paris, France
Exhibition: until 24th September, 2012
Sale: 24th September, 2012

The Collection of Hélène Rochas
Christie’s, Paris, France
Exhibition: until 26th September, 2012
Sale: 27th September, 2012

Art always was an expensive commodity. In the 21st century it has become an investment of choice/a choice investment. Expressed through a personal art collection, however, character and taste remain invaluable assets. Two French collectors, Hélène Rochas – who died in 2011 – and Marcel Brient, both rich but with very different collections surrounded themselves with pieces that they liked by artists they admired. Next Monday, a substantial part of Brient’s collection will be sold at Sotheby’s, Paris, and just along the road at Christie’s the contents of Rochas’s home go under the hammer on Thursday, 27th September.

Marcel Brient
On the occasion of the sale of four major works by Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun, In London, in 2008, Saatchi Online’s Corentin Hamel interviewed Marcel Brient and Catherine Thieck, joint manager of the New Galerie de France. Thieck, who was asked by Hamel why she had become interested in Chinese artists in the early 1990s, explained that she had only ever worked with five Chinese artists and that Marcel Brient had become intrigued by their work but took his time to choose what to buy: ‘There was no Marcel Brient takeover bid for Chinese artists,’ she said. ‘He has never been to China. There was nothing exotic or strategic about his interest. And I was not that good at explaining the sociological or cultural context. Brient would reflect, then make his choice, at home or in the gallery, with just his eye and mind.’

When he did decide to buy, Brient told the Saatchi interviewer: ‘My first choice was Zhang Xiaogang. I was struck by the beauty of his work, his great intelligence and powerful political impact. With him, China seemed to be taking off, so to speak. So this was a strong, historic opportunity. These very nice, very gentle paintings were clearly denouncing something harsher. A new chapter was about to be written. To me, this way of expressing historical change recalled the painting of the Renaissance.’

Brient’s acquiring art has always been more of a personal adventure than a commercial undertaking. He likes to discover works by chance, rather than specifically seeking them out, and via the close relationships he developed with, among others, Louis Clayeux, Director of Galerie Maeght in Paris from 1948-65, who took him to visit Alberto Giacometti in his studio; Galerie Durand-Dessert; the dealers Claude Bernard and Yvon Lambert, and the aforementioned, Galerie de France. But, it is Brient’s own taste that ultimately leads him to the artists he admires. As with the interest he later developed in Chinese contemporary artists, Brient had been one of the first to purchase works by John Currin, Sigmar Polke, Jeff Koons, Kara Walker and Felix Gonzales-Torres.

Around 100 items from Brient’s collection will be sold. Collectively – if you can excuse the pun – they provide a rich overview of artistic creativity in France during the 1960s and reflect the career of this intuitive acquisitor who discreetly amassed one of the largest agglomerations of contemporary art in France.

In West Berlin on 18th February, 1968, 10,000 people had demonstrated against the Vietnam War. Among the paintings by Michel Parmentier included in the sale is the powerful 18 Février 1968. Important works by the Nouveaux Réalistes are also featured, among them Poussette empaquetée /Packed stroller , 1962, by Christo, who, having previously produced abstract paintings had begun to wrap objects in canvas or plastic. Seita, 1966/7, is an oversized matchbox by Raymond Hains, whose aim was to construct bridges between banal everyday life and the world of creation. Hungarian-born Simon Hantaï, later a leader of the Support/Surface movement, is represented by several canvases that were first folded, crumpled and soaked in colour before being un-folded, these include the delicate Etude, 1969.

Brient lives in a modest apartment with unadorned walls. He rarely gives interviews and never attends social events. These pieces he picked out and handed over to Sotheby’s for the sale are a didactic selection intended to fire up others to be inspired, as he was, by the work of the artists he supported through the acquisitions he made in France in the sixties.

Hélène Rochas
In 1944 on the eve of French liberation, 42-year-old Marcel Rochas, already a famous French fashion designer, who had founded a successful perfume business in 1925, and whose early work had been supported by Jean Cocteau, Paul Poiret and Christian Berard, had just married a young woman, Hélène, who he met on the metro in 1941. The couple chose the ground floor of a 19th century hôtel particulier (rather grand townhouse or inn) at 40, rue de Barbet de Jouy, in Paris’s plush 7th arrondissement, as their new home. Only 11 years later, Marcel died. Hélène Rochas, suddenly a rich widow, was to live in the apartment for the rest of her life, over time furnishing each room with the collection of contemporary paintings, classical furniture and Chinese porcelains she assembled with a seamless unity.

In his touching introduction to Christie’s extensive 216-page sale catalogue, Frédéric Mitterrand, France’s Former Minister of Culture and Communication tells us of how, in their tributes to her after her death, New York celebrated Hélène Rochas as France’s wonder woman. But he claims that they and others in the fashion business gave only part of the truth, without revealing her essential grace. ‘ Madame Rochas’s exquisite manners,’ Mitterand informs us, expressed her profound respect for all people; and, ‘through extraordinarily free, refined taste, she paid tribute to the best artists, known or unknown, from times long past and from her own era.’

This polite, graceful lady had catholic tastes. Alongside her friends Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Hélène Rochas was one of the first to start an important Art Deco collection and in 1974, she commissioned four portraits of herself from Andy Warhol. The same year, she acquired Ben Nicholson’s 1933 abstract painting Violon et guitare. She hung the Nicholson facing a striking neoclassical sofa, flanking it with a pair of ormulu-mounted neo-classical vases from Harewood Castle in England. A life-size Portrait of Lucien Guitry by Edouard Vuillard dominated the entrance hall. The living room, which overlooked a pretty green and white garden, was presided over by Braunes Schweigen, a 1925 oil painting by Wassily Kandinsky, hung above a sofa. On one of a pair of neoclassical side tables in the same room stood a large 1954 terracotta vase by Picasso. A massive Balthus painting, Japanese woman with red table, 1967-76, covered one entire wall of the petit salon where Madame Rochas hosted friends and guests. Important examples of classical furniture and European objets d’art, as well as old master and 19th century paintings and drawings could be found throughout the apartment.

Hélène Rochas counted herself as very lucky for having had the chance to encounter some of the 20th century’s most creative minds in the arts, literature and painting as well as music and show business. She enjoyed the opportunity of frequenting the salons of aristocrats and great patrons, but as much as anything it was her own curiosity, her appetite for discovery and keen sense of aesthetics, that  fashioned her taste. As her experience grew, her ideas changed and shifted, she followed new directions but her quest was always quality. Her collection reflects the rich and varied international milieu in which she appears to have so naturally shone. Her collection is estimated to realise €8m ($10.5m,£6.5m).

Works from top
Michel Parmentier
Peinture no.10, 1965
Glycero painting on canvas
Estimate €30,000 – 40,000
©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

Poussette empaquetée/Packed stroller, 1962
Plastic and string
Estimate €120,000 – 180,000
©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

Andy Warhol
Portrait de Hélène Rochas, fond vert tendre, 1974
Acrylic and silk screen ink on canvas
Estimate €200,000-300,000

Jean Lambert & Jean Dunand
Deux masques, circa 1925
Lacquered eggshell on oak
Estimate €60,000-80,000

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Auction | The Art of the Artless

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Sotheby\’s video

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Sotheby’s, London. Exhibition opens today. Sale 22nd June 2011

One gets, I suppose, so used from watching seasoned TV presenters on arts shows like The Culture Show, with the confiding, sometimes almost whisperingly confidential Andrew Graham Dixon and The South Bank Show’s urbane and smirkingly jovial Melvyn Bragg, to being invited in by come hither looks, knowing surreptitious winks or an exuberant gesturing of hands into the worlds of art and artists that we have come to expect a certain showmanship from those who deliver it into our homes.

I said in an earlier post how pleased I am to be on the emailing list of Sotheby’s; how wonderful it is that any member of the public is free to wander into their London galleries and see rare items of painting and sculpture that go on show for a very brief few days in the run up to an auction. Sotheby’s emailed updates often come with a Watch Video button that links to almost unbelievably static and dry, short films. The format is virtually always the same; one single or a series of Sotheby’s specialists talk for a very short time about the highlights of the forthcoming sale, waving their hands around a bit, otherwise expressing little emotion other than, maybe, mild embarrassment. They might just as well be presenting the weather. The latest update is a taster for their forthcoming Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, the exhibition for which starts today. I find it oddly disconcerting that such experts appear to be so inhibited and uncomfortable standing in front of a succession of artworks spouting their stuff into a video camera with, apparently, little direction other than not to look directly into the lens – at least the weathermen look you in the eye. You get the impression that no-one else is in the room: that the camera operator, bored out of his mind, has perhaps wandered off somewhere and only pops back in afterwards to zoom in on details – later to be cut into the films –  of the works, in this case, a beautiful and emotive, finely-crafted, group sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, a passionately painted, double portrait by Pablo Picasso or a rare and exquisite townscape from Egon Schiele.

Sotheby’s website is well-designed – they know what they are about – so perhaps there’s some well thought through psychology at work here that goes over my head. Used car salesmanship techniques or barrow-boy yelling would undoubtedly frighten off reclusive art collecting billionaires, after all, the auction house wants itself taken seriously but surely, in return for parting with their millions, even billionaires deserve a little free, good quality entertainment.

Will you attend this Sotheby’s sale?
Any embarrassing public speaking moments you’d like to tell me about?

Please leave a comment

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