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The life and work of Alberto Giacometti is celebrated in the Museu de Arte Moderna's latest high-profile exhibition, the 'Coleção da Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Paris'. Not only does it form the most complete look at his remarkable bronze and marble sculptures ever to reach South America, but the museum also becomes the first public archive on the continent to hold his work, with the sculpture 'Quatre Femmes sur Socle' (1950) to be added to the permanent collection.
Opening with a series of black and white photographs of the artist at work, most notably sculpting his wife, Annette, and with his friend's including the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, some posed for magazines, some more personal. Beginning with him as a boy at his father's Swiss studio, the images move to the bleak-looking Paris workshop where he would often angrily destroy an entire evening's work in frustration are captured in all their plaster-splattered anti-glory.
Upstairs, Giacometti's remarkable early paintings, drawings of his mother and a bust of his brother Diego, display the prodigious talent within him already unfurling whilst barely in his teens. Thereafter, his early brush with African art is conveyed in works like the tribal masks of 'Le Cuple' (1927), which brought him to the public's attention in Paris and led to the first series of sculptures of the female form and busts, and into the world of the Surrealists.
Of these works, a 1965 version of his 'Boule Suspendue' (1931) is featured along with 'Femme qui Marche' (1932), before he moved on to develop his obsession with the human head and its dimensions. The great bronze works for which he is best known fill the space, the proportions and angles of heads on plinths and their occasionally grotesquely proportioned noses. From 6cm-high cast bronze busts to the two metre-plus forms both stationary and in motion, Jean-Paul Sartre was in awe of the artist's work, writing; "Giacometti has restored an imaginary and indivisible space to statues. He was the first to take it into his head to sculpt man as he appears, that is to say, from a distance."
Lithographs and sketches of the mountain views from his family home in Switzerland begin the more diverse trip through his stykes and travels found on the third floor, the great outdoors an ever-changing source of inspiration much removed from his obsession with the human form. The busts and paintings of those around him, however, remained constant, creating likenesses of his wife, Annette, and even his mother's cook, Rita, from memory, injecting his unmistakable soul and movement to MAM's bronze crowds.