The story got buried in November but during the week of sales in New York there were some extraordinary prices paid for Diego Giacometti furniture. A pair of lamps at Sotheby’s were estimated at $60-80k but sold for $732k. A table estimated at $300-400k, sold for $3.8m.
The Diego Giacometti market is no stranger to such volatile price swings but the action seems to be intensifying. That makes today’s intriguing announcement from Christie’s that they will be selling 21 pieces of Giacometti furniture owned by the designer Hubert Givenchy in Paris this March:
Christie’s will offer a group of pieces by Diego Giacometti from the personal collection of Hubert de Givenchy in Paris on 6 March 2017 at 6pm. This exceptional sale will be preceded by a week-long viewing inspired by the only exhibition dedicated to Diego Giacometti curated by Daniel Marchesseau in 1986 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. With this exhibition, Hubert de Givenchy will pay a final tribute to his dear friend Giacometti, who he cherished and valued.
Hubert de Givenchy: “It is thanks to Gustav Zumsteg, an important fabric creator in Zurich, whose company was called Abraham, that I met Diego Giacometti. During one of my visits to Zurich, he offered me a gueridon made by Diego for the Kronenhalle, the famous restaurant owned by his family. Fascinated by its pure aesthetic, I asked him if it was possible to meet the artist and he introduced him to me shortly afterwards. The relationship I had with Diego for nearly 20 years turned quickly into friendship. He was a very kind man, simple, welcoming, discreet, and a talented craftsman. He started to create some pieces for my first house at Jouy at the end of 1960, and then for the manor of Le Jonchet at the beginning of the 1970’s. With this sale, I want to pay a further tribute to him, an additional recognition which he does not need, but which shows how important he was to me.”
The life of the Giacometti brothers began at the very beginning of the 20th century in a small Swiss village called Stampa. Born a year apart, the two brothers remained very close all their lives. In 1925, Diego joined his brother Alberto in Paris, following the wishes of his mother Annetta, first settling together in Alberto’s apartment in Montparnasse, before moving to a studio in Rue Hippolyte-Maindron. It is during this year that they began a lifelong collaboration together. Diego assisted his brother in the creation of his sculptures: assembling the frames, and helping with the plaster casts and bronzes patinas. Diego also became the preferred model for his brother, for whom he would pose every morning.
From 1929, the two brothers undertook an important collaboration with the most renowned Parisian interior designer of the time, Jean-Michel Frank. Thanks to him, Diego and Alberto were introduced to a circle of connoisseurs and renowned fashion designers, including Elsa Schiaparelli, Lucien Lelong, Coco Chanel, Hélène Rochas and Gustav Zumsteg, the Director of the fabric company Abraham. Zumsteg was an important art collector and was working with fashion designers such as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Hubert de Givenchy. His mother was also the owner of the Kronenhalle in Zurich, a restaurant as renowned as Lipp in Paris. Close to Diego Giacometti, Gustav Zumsteg and his mother commissioned a series of lamps and gueridons in 1966, including the one offered by Hubert de Givenchy. This version, initially created in 1962 for the Maeght Foundation, is estimated at €150,000- 200,000.
In 1941, Alberto returned to Switzerland to flee the German occupation, while Diego decided to stay in France with his fiancée Nelly. This gave Diego the opportunity to work on his own and create individual pieces such as small animal sculptures. Five years later, the two brothers were reunited and resumed their collaboration, but it was Diego who received more personal orders to furnish private apartments, such as the one owned by Aimé and Marguerite Maeght. The couple, who always supported and promoted both artists, first acquired several sculptures by Alberto before asking Diego to furnish their apartment, Avenue Foch in Paris, followed by the Mas-Bernard and the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
After Alberto’s death in 1966, Diego became devoted to his personal creations and the orders he received, including the one in 1984, for the Musée Picasso, inaugurated a year later.