Some years ago, an animated short directed by the indie filmmaker Sam Chen was released. “Eternal Gaze” is a journey through one of the most important artists (or one of the greatest, as said in the premise of the movie) of the last Century: Alberto Giacometti.
What makes Giacometti such a fascinating subject, even for a computer graphic short movie? You may find the answer looking at some videos of him working in his studio that you will find in one of the “not to be missed” summer exhibitions in London.
Open until 10 September, Giacometti’s retrospective at Tate Modern is a sight for sore eyes and a great celebration of his passion for studying, painting, sculpting and, generally, feeling a true love for Art.
This collaboration between Tate Modern and the Fondation Giacometti in Paris is a remarkable opportunity to present new perspectives on Giacometti’s work, with a wide-ranging exhibition that includes plasters and drawings that have never been seen before.
Ten rooms of pure Beauty, the elongated, arcane, existential one, with his figures who seem to stare and investigate you, as Emma Wagstaff said in the catalogue referring to the Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy: “Sartre has been instrumental in the interpretation of Giacometti’s work through an existentialist lens. According to Sartre, Giacometti’s figures reveal that people do not exist prior to being seen: we live surrounded by other and are the object of their gaze. Whether they are presented singly or in groups, the figures seem to include around them the distance that separates them from others, such that they are always shown in their context”.
Works like The Forest or The Glade (1950) show exactly this silent dialogue between every bronze slight body and the numerous visitors of the exhibition.
The theatrical entrance of the retrospective welcomes you with this sentence: “When you look at the human face, you always look at the eyes. An eye as something special about it, it’s made of different matter than the rest of the face”. The opening room shows, in fact, a selection of heads in different material and styles, ranging from early naturalistic sculptures of the teen-Giacometti, such as Head of a Child [Simon Bérard] (1917-18), to works from the 50s/60s.
The following rooms are dedicated to Giacometti’s love for copying (he was an incessant draughtsman) and his surrealist sculptures like Spoon Woman, or the violent Woman with her Throat Cut: an abstracted hybrid of plant and insect that appears to be in the throes of death, but that also looks like a trap ready to shut someone tight.
A lot of paintings, or better, portraits are on display at Tate: from the first of his brother Diego, until his death in 1966, Giacometti’s portraiture is totally different from most other paintings of this genre. In the artist’s representation of individuals, the usual elements of characterisation, psychology and even identity are absent. As a result, they do not simply represent particular people, but go deeper (as analysed by Paul Moorhouse).
One of the most important reasons why you can’t miss this exhibition is the presence of eight of the surviving nine Woman of Venice plasters, alongside two bronze casts. The majestic, elongated nudes, over a metre high, were created for the 1956 Venice Biennale, where Giacometti’s was invited to represent France. The original plaster works are reunited for the first time in sixty years at the Tate Modern for this amazing, astonishing, breathtaking retrospective.
As Frances Morris, the Director of Tate Modern, said: “Few artists in the last century have restricted themselves, over so long period of time, to so few themes. But even fewer have done so with such extreme disregard for fashion, breaking so many rules and flouting convention with such conviction […] it seems clear why Giacometti’s complex and compelling work remains so fascinating and so relevant”.
Tate Modern, London
Until 10 September 2017
(This article was originally posted on the Contemporary Art Curator Magazine)