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$100.9 Million Giacometti – A Monster Price for a Slender Sculpture

November 4, 2014
Lot 25. ALBERTO GIACOMETTI 1901 - 1966 CHARIOT Inscribed with the signature A. Giacometti, with foundry mark Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris and numbered  2/6 Painted bronze on wooden base Height: 57 in. 144.7 cm Conceived in 1950 and cast in 1951-52. This lot sold for a hammer price of $ ($ including the buyer's premium).

Lot 25. ALBERTO GIACOMETTI 1901 – 1966 CHARIOT
Inscribed with the signature A. Giacometti, with foundry mark Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris and numbered 2/6
Painted bronze on wooden base, Height: 57 in. (144.7 cm)
Conceived in 1950 and cast in 1951-52.
This lot sold for $100,965,000 ($90 million hammer price plus the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen is the buyer.

ORIGINAL POST: An Alberto Giaometti sculpture Chariot has just sold for a whopping $100,965,000 ($90 million hammer price plus the buyer’s premium)  Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and Modern Art, but failed to break the record $104.3 million spent on the artist’s L’Homme qui marche I (Walking Man 1) in April 2010 at Sotheby’s in London.  The bidding and the result was anticlimactic – there was only one bid (by telephone) and the hammer price was expected to exceed $100 million. The 1950 work, one of six created, and one of only two in private hands, was sold by “Aleko Goulandris of the Greek shipping dynasty,” according to the New York Post.  The Post notes that “Goulandris bought the 1950 bronze of a goddess between two large wheels in 1972 for $375,000. That sum doesn’t sound like much, but Upper East Side townhouses were going for less in those days, too.”

The extensive sale catalogue entry says that Giacometti’s “biographer James Lord, while discussing what is considered Giacometti’s ‘great period’ of the late 1940s and early 1950s, identified Chariot as his finest accomplishment: ‘There are many extraordinary sculptures of 1949 and 1950,’ he wrote. ‘Among them all, however, there is one, perhaps, more extraordinary than the others by reason of having required him to be extraordinary. It asks the beholder to be extraordinary, too’ (J. Lord, Giacometti, New York, 1985, p. 304).”

Of the six casts made, four are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung, Kunsthaus, Zurich; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, MO. This one, is distinct because of its finish – as the sale catalogue notes: “The present cast of Chariot is among the rare sculptures that Giacometti painted meticulously to enhance the textural quality of the bronze, adding precise details of to the face, lips and body. This technique alludes to the polychrome empyreal funerary figures of ancient Egyptian statuary, whose timeless stance Giacometti also invokes. Only the present work and another in the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, are treated in this unique way.”

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