“I know no one else who is as sensitive as he to the magic of faces and gestures,” Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote of Alberto Giacometti (1901–66), the Swiss-born artist famous for his distinctive sculptures of human figures. Standing eerily tall and skeletal, and finished in a coarsely textured bronze, Giacometti’s artworks are both surrealist and evocative of an innate human quality. The corporeal figure was a stable obsession for Giacometti from the start of his career, which grew from his father’s painting studio in an alpine valley and reached the heart of the Surrealist movement in Paris. Today, Giacometti is renowned as one of the greatest sculptors of the first half of the 20th century, with a record-breaking $141-million (U.S.) paid at auction in 2015 for L’Homme au doigt.
This summer, the artist will be honoured with an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery from June 16 to September 29. Originally curated for the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, England, Alberto Giacometti: A Line Through Time will cross the Atlantic to Vancouver, marking the exhibit’s first North American appearance. With over 130 works, the collection follows the artist’s career, pre- and postwar, encompassing his work along with that of contemporaries such as Isabel Rawsthorne, Francis Bacon, Lynn Chadwick, and Eduardo Paolozzi. These artists’ exploration of materiality and existential-inspired realism paralleled Giacometti’s own, and they will be shown alongside his to provide context to the sentimentality of artists at the time. Giacometti’s other fascination, Mediterranean antiquity, will be alluded to through ancient and ceremonial sculptures from around the world.
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