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Giacometti's iconic Homme Qui Chavire will highlight 20th and 21st Century Evening Sale in London
Alberto Giacometti, Homme qui chavire (conceived in 1950, cast in 1951, estimate: 12,000,000-18,000,000). Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

LONDON.- Alberto Giacometti’s Homme qui chavire will highlight Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Evening Sale on 30 June and will be offered with a pre-sale estimate of 12-18 million. Conceived in 1950, and cast a year later, Homme qui chavire pictures a man in the moment before he either falls to the ground, or conversely, rises from the earth to ascend upwards. It is one of the greatest of Giacometti’s now iconic elongated, attenuated figures that emerged after the end of the Second World War. Perhaps no other work in the artist’s oeuvre embodies the essential fragility and inherent solitude of the human experience. Homme qui chavire is one of six recorded casts, with other examples now held in museums including the Kunsthaus, Zurich, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, and Muse Granet, Aix-en-Provence. The last example of this important sculpture to be offered at auction was over a decade ago, in 2009, which achieved $19.4 million. Since that time, Christie's has set the world auction record for an Alberto Giacometti sculpture with L'homme au doigt which realised over $140 million in May 2015.

Keith Gill, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s London: “Giacometti’s poetic sculpture Homme qui chavire exquisitely demonstrates the artist’s experimentation with form that has become synonymous with his oeuvre. Elongated and caught between the pull of gravity and ascension, the figure embodies the fragility of existence. This beautiful bronze has only had two owners since its casting in 1951, so it is an honour to offer this sculpture as a highlight of the June 20th and 21st Century season in London.”

Giacometti returned to Paris from Geneva in the autumn of 1945, carrying with him just six matchboxes that contained the sum of his wartime work: a group of tiny plaster heads and figures. Back in Paris, he vowed not to let his sculptures diminish in size any further, turning to the practice of drawing continuously in an attempt to model taller figures. Soon after his return to Paris, Giacometti made a revelatory discovery in a Montparnasse cinema. While watching the film he became suddenly and acutely aware of the difference between figures portrayed in fictional images and those experienced in real life. This experience irrevocably altered Giacometti’s sculptural practice. He no longer sought to model an image that corresponded to a memory or to any prior knowledge of what it should or should not look like, but instead became fixated upon the reproduction of the reality that he could observe in front of him. As a result, when modelling his figures, Giacometti attempted to tackle representation as though for the first time, relying uniquely on his sense of perception, rather than on traditional convention or academic techniques. From 1947 onwards, Giacometti’s figures soared vertically; enlarged and drastically elongated, the clay stretched, modelled and manipulated to its farthest limit as he reduced the human form to its barest components.

The poet and art historian Yves Bonnefoy has suggested that Homme qui chavire may have been inspired by an accident the artist experienced in 1938, when a car ran over his right foot, crushing it, and knocking him down. Yet, rendering this action with a calligraphic, near-balletic elegance Giacometti has transcended any exact event to create a figure which, with its head thrown back and arms rounding in an expansive arc, inhabits a universal form of human experience and shows how we are all victims of chance.

Homme qui chavire was formerly in the collection of the American artist Lillian Florsheim (1896-1988). Born in New Orleans, Florsheim began studying art in Chicago in the late 1940s. She soon became interested in abstract art, creating sculptures with wire, and later plexiglass and plastic, akin to the teachings and technique pioneered by Lszl Moholy-Nagy. It was also at this time that Florsheim began to build a collection of art by other artists. In line with her own artistic interests, she acquired non-representational works of Cubism, De Stijl and Abstraction-Creation artists, including Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, and Georges Vantongerloo, all of whom she knew personally. Florsheim acquired Homme qui chavire in December 1951, from one of Giacometti’s most important dealers, Galerie Maeght. It remained in her collection for the rest of her life, before being sold by her family in 1998, where it was acquired by the present owner

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