Saturday, May 25, 2024

A Rare Chandelier by Alberto Giacometti, Bought for $300, Set to Make Millions at Auction

It’s the story every antique store sleuth hopes to star in: a curious object, purchased for a pittance, reveals itself as the work of a blue-chip artist.

In the 1960s, an eagle-eyed customer bought a chandelier for £250 at a London shop, and later learned it is one of the few lighting fixtures made by famed Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti. The chandelier, which dates to the 1940s, will appear at Christie’s next month. The house has said it may even bring in more money than a similar piece that sold in 2018 for roughly $9.3 million.

Sculptures by Giacometti, who died in 1966, are among the most expensive on the market. His 1947 bronze piece, L’Homme au Doigt (The Man with the Finger), sold in 2015 for $141.3 million, and it remains the single priciest sculpture to be sold at auction.

His prices are preceded by his towering legacy as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. The works are easily recognizable, too, often featuring small, slender figures whose skin resembles harshly hewed rock.  

Beginning in 1929, Giacometti and his brother, Diego, produced decorative objects and furniture pieces as a means of earning money. “Objects interest me hardly any less than sculpture, and there is a point at which the two touch,” he once said. The works, made in collaboration with the highly influential interior designer Jean Michel Frank, sold well and were featured often in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. According to Giacometti’s foundation, more than half of his decorative work was lighting, including floor lamps, lamps, and sconces.

Per the Guardian, the chandelier coming to Christie’s was likely commissioned in 1946 or 1947 by Giacometti’s late friend, the art collector Peter Watson. It hung in the offices of the Horizon, a now-defunct U.K. cultural journal, from 1949 until the magazine closed the following year. Afterward, it was placed in storage before finding its way by mysterious means to an antique shop on London’s Marylebone Road.

The English painter John Craxton bought it from the shop in the 1960s and displayed it in his home in Hampstead, London, for 50 years. In 2021, the Foundation Giacometti in Paris authenticated it—and even deemed it one of the most significant entries in his design oeuvre, given its suspended ball, which appears elsewhere only in Giacometti’s early sculpture La Boule suspendue (1922).

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