For the first time in Israel, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (TAMA) presents a retrospective exhibition of Albertoo Giacometti, one of the best-known and most important artists of the 20th century.
Spanning 130 works, including iconic sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints, the exhibition inaugurates the Eyal Ofer Pavilion, renamed after the Israeli billionaire on the back of a $5 million (NIS 18.2 m.) donation.
Following an extensive renovation and upgrading led by architect Amnon Rechter, the pavilion, which was built 60 years ago by his father, the late Israel Prize laureate architect Yaakov Rechter, opened to the public on Saturday, with the Giacometti retrospective exhibition spreading across all four levels.
Renowned for its modernist aesthetic, the pavilion, inaugurated in 1959 as the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, underwent extensive renovation. The renovation project has striven to restore the pavilion to its former status as one of the most iconic buildings in Tel Aviv. Including the renewal of the infrastructure, lighting, climate control and visitation spaces, this extensive project was made possible by the donation from the Eyal and Marilyn Ofer Family Foundation, which also supported the bringing of Giacometti’s exhibition to Israel. Additional support was provided by Credit Suisse.
The exhibition, co-organized by TAMA and the Giacometti Foundation (France), is the first retrospective of the work of Albertoo Giacometti (1901–1966), one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
Presenting works from the Giacometti Foundation’s holdings, as well as pieces from TAMA’s collection, the exhibition spans Giacometti’s career from the early 1920s to the artist’s death in 1966, featuring a special selection from the artist’s Surrealist period, as well as a number of iconic plasters and bronzes, paintings, drawings and prints, bringing the full scope of his practice into focus.
Giacometti is best known for his distinctive sculptures that emerged after World War II, including a series of elongated standing women, walking men and expressive busts, which resonated in a time when many were grappling with feelings of postwar anxiety and renewed interest in the human nature.
Iconic works in the exhibition
AMONG THE exhibition are iconic works, such as Walking Woman (1932), Point to the Eye (1931–32), Bust of Silvio (1945), Three Walking Men (1948), The Cage (1950), an ensemble of Woman of Venice (1956), and significant painted portraits.
The exhibition presents a unique opportunity to experience the full range of Giacometti’s art in Israel, which itself came of age in the same years as the artist’s most creative period, in the context of boldly modern, postwar aesthetics.
Curator Hugo Daniel from the Giacometti Foundation worked on the exhibition together with TAMA curator Ronili Lustig Steinmetz. In an interview ahead of the opening of the exhibition, both curators stressed the importance of this exhibition for both institutes. Hugo Daniel said, “We have the largest collection of Giacometti in the world and this is an opportunity for us to present the vastness of his body of work and to show it in an environment that enhances them.”
Giacometti’s body of work reflects his investigations of the human figure and his repeated attempts to capture his experience of seeing, what he called “rendering my vision.”
“We start at the beginning in the early years. Going until the end through various changes and steps in his career, we follow his path,” continued Daniel. “Focusing on major themes in his work, we usually associate Giacometti with the human figure. That was indeed one of his focuses. However, to better understand this focus, you have to see how he did both: which path he took to come to the figures that are well-known and to better understand their nuances. Some of the ideas we worked on first were the fact that Giacometti had a crazy work process and how he always felt a tremendous amount of humility. He always had the feeling of failing. We know that his work was genius and certainly not a failure, but a major achievement. But for him, he worked with a feeling of failing.”
Daniel says that as he was never satisfied with his work, one of Giacometti’s main motives was starting over every day. “He was never satisfied and kept starting over. Hence the title chosen for the exhibition, Albertoo Giacometti – Beginning Again.”
“We want to give a sense of continuity in his body of work, but also in terms of the creation in modern times. Giacometti did not see modernity as disconnected from the past. On the contrary, he was working on humanity on a scale that encompasses the Babylonian and Egyptian times until the present. His modernity is rooted in the absorption of the ancient forms of art. When he arrived in Paris in 1922, he would go to the Louvre almost every day to look at ancient works from other civilizations. He saw modernity as being a moment in the continuing human experience that is larger. He was very aware of his time and I think it makes him a revolutionary in that sense.”
The humanity in Giacometti's work
BESIDES FOCUSING on Giacometti’s greatest works, say the curators, the exhibition also shows Giacometti’s sense of humanity – what it actually means in terms of his choices and of the development of his body of work.
As one of the major artists of the 20th century, Giacometti was in contact with major thinkers and artists of his period. “Nevertheless,” said Daniel, “at the same time, he was also alone in many ways. His artistic choices and his focus on the human figure set him apart from many of his contemporaries. Giacometti focused on the human figure at a time when abstract paintings were the major trend. He was rather solitary in his artistic choices. The fact that he took his own unique path is another testament to the strength of his vision and his creation.”
Working together with Hugo Daniel was curator Ronili Lustig Steinmetz. “Looking at Giacometti’s works, it is very important to go through all the different media he worked in,” she said. “The works complete each other. His bronze figures are very well-known around the world. However, he was a great painter, too. In his own perspective, the three mediums were inseparable. He would start his day in the studio always working in all three mediums. It was important for him to be considered as an artist, not just a sculptor. Us showing all of the different works is significant.”
“The paintings that we show are quite rare, they are real masterpieces,” Continued Daniel. “They might be less known than his sculptures and the same is true for the drawings, but they are the core of inspiration. The richness of the collection of the Giacometti Foundation makes it possible for us to show some very rare pieces, and to show them in the historical context to the archival material we have, the documentation that we have.”
Albertoo Giacometti: Beginning, Again at The Eyal Ofer Pavilion, Tel Aviv, through October 7. For more information and tickets, visit: www.tamuseum.org.il.