The exhibition "Alberto Giacometti – Beyond Bronze" at the Kunsthaus Zürich shows the artist's world-famous bronze pieces alongside precious, meticulously restored plasters as they have never been seen before. The exhibition runs until January 15, 2017.
On this sunny but cold morning in early December, the Kunsthaus is thronged with visitors. The crowds taking in the exhibition of Alberto Giacometti's masterpieces in plaster, stone, clay, and bronze have come from far and wide. There is a group of French-speaking tourists bustling through the hall. In one spot, you can make out a few words of Chinese. Over there, people are speaking English with a wide range of accents. They have all made their way here to finally – or once more – see a Giacometti up close. However, those who are expecting to see rooms full of "typical Giacomettis" – tall, scrawny figures made of bronze – are in for a few surprises. The exhibit rooms are populated with rarely displayed works made of Plasticine, clay, plaster, wood, and stone from all periods of his career. Some are standing on pedestals; others are lying on tables – all without a protective (but annoying) plexiglass wall in front of them. Still others are mounted on a wall or displayed in corners, recreating an intimate studio atmosphere. The exhibition is designed with rooms that provide unique experiences. Some are even furnished with original pieces – for example, a dresser and workbench from Stampa. In this setting, pieces from various periods of his career and in different phases of completion appear together – just as they once did in Giacometti's atelier.
Credit Suisse and Kunsthaus Zürich: Partners for 25 Years
"With this exhibition, we want to depart from having a conventional museum display and show people how things looked in Giacometti's studio. The exhibition is intended to create a different approach to an artist whom people already know so well," says curator Philippe Büttner. He adds that the exhibit communicates a large amount of recently acquired knowledge, and it writes a completely new chapter in the story of how Giacometti is received. The exhibition is already drawing international attention. The director of the Tate Modern has already paid a visit and will be sending her exhibit designer to Zurich for research purposes.
A lot of work was done behind the scenes before the exhibition at the Kunsthaus opened at the end of October 2016. The event essentially began with a donation made in 2006. Seventy-five plaster pieces from the estate of Alberto Giacometti were given as a gift by Alberto's brother, Bruno, and his wife, Odette, to the Alberto Giacometti Foundation at the Kunsthaus Zürich. From 2010 to 2014, the experts at the Kunsthaus put a great deal of time and effort – and even greater care – into restoring the pieces. They performed material analyses, ultraviolet light examinations, 3-D scans, X-ray scans, and 2-D radiography. Work of this kind is not only time-consuming, but also costly. Without reliable partners, even an institution as renowned as the Kunsthaus Zürich cannot realize projects of this type. It managed to find dependable partners for its restoration project. In the end, the exhibition was made possible thanks to sponsorship by Credit Suisse. Christoph Becker, Director of the Kunsthaus Zürich says: "More than anything else, Credit Suisse's support gives the Kunsthaus a reliable basis for planning when realizing complex projects for high-level exhibitions. During the 25 years of their partnership with the Kunsthaus Zürich, they have proven themselves to be a dependable and generous partner. This continuity is no accident, but the result of a close and constructive collaboration. The bank's ongoing commitment to the arts pays off in loyal client relationships and the appreciation of a public interested in art. It enables us to fulfill our aspiration of being a museum with the best possible international network – for the benefit of our institution and the roughly 300,000 visitors annually we receive from Zurich, Switzerland, and around the world."
Kunsthaus Zürich: the Bastion of Giacometti's Work
One sculpture of importance created by Alberto Giacometti in 1950, "L’homme qui chavire" ("Falling Man"), was the first piece that found its way into the Kunsthaus in 1954, while Giacometti was still alive, through a purchase made by the Vereinigung Zürcher Kunstfreunde (Association of Friends of the Kunsthaus). The museum now possesses over 400 pieces, making it the undisputed bastion of Giacometti's work. The exhibition is showing many precious original plasters, scanned and analyzed down to their innermost layers. Does a work of art lose its magical quality when people know so much about it? Curator Büttner thinks precisely the opposite is true: "I was surprised to see how he worked the plasters, how he took a knife and scraped, scratched, and carved them. He also painted them. Art of this caliber always reveals something new to the observer. When you assemble them in new combinations, they provide different perspectives. While bronze has a feeling of permanence, plaster allows pieces to undergo continuous change – it's like a perpetual metamorphosis."