MADRID – A special Alberto Giacometti exhibition that juxtaposes works by several of the acclaimed sculptor’s favorite artists alongside his own stylized and fragile-looking pieces previewed on Monday as part of the Prado Museum’s bicentenary celebrations.
“Alberto Giacometti in the Museo del Prado,” is the title of the exhibition set to launch later this week for a show Miguel Falomir, director of the world-renowned Spanish gallery, said is to be “iconic and would remain as one of the most powerful images of the Prado.”
“The museum is making a nod to contemporary art and the exhibition takes place in some of the most consecrated spaces of the Prado’s history,” Falomir told reporters at the preview.
“Such as in Room 12 where Velazquez’s Las Meninas,” is housed, or opposite Charles V in the battle of Mühlberg by Titian, as well as with El Greco and Zurbaran,” the director said of the impressive list of painters.
The show presents 20 artworks by the artist, 18 sculptures and two oil paintings.
Punters are first met by one of the most celebrated sculptures of the 20th century “Piazza” – composed of “Tall Woman III,” “Tall Woman IV,” “Large Head” and “Walking Man”- featuring a set of five tiny and thin figures which all appear to have been frozen in mid-action onto a vast bronze slab.
The theatrical composition is displayed with the Meninas, a mid-17th-century group royal portrait that depicts Diego Velazquez himself marking a radical divergence from traditions of the time by creating a charged and multidimensional action shot.
Giacometti’s theatricality and Velazquez’s mystifying portrait converge beautifully.
The sculptural composition was created towards the end of the artist’s career, and “Walking Man,” was initially conceived in 1958 for a monumental sculptural project in New York which never saw the light of day.
Giacometti later made several versions of the existentialist figure, which French writer Jean-Paul Sartre said were “halfway between nothingness and being.”
The artists himself described his figures as “skeletons in space,” also adding that a key aim of his practice was to represent the frailty of life.
As viewers walk through the Madrid museum, “The Chariot,” a golden bronze majestic piece sits elegantly opposite Titian’s portrait of Charles V.
An elongated female figure cuts a powerful presence as she stands suspended on a platform propped up by two huge wheels.
In the same room, the only two paintings on display by the Swiss artist hang, including “Head of a Man I (Diego),” a portrait of his brother from 1964 who posed for him throughout his career.
Next, stand the seven “Women of Venice,” a series Giacometti presented at the Venice Biennial in 1956 which have gone down in history as the artist’s masterpiece, by Tintoretto’s “Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet.”
The women look on towards the spaces dominated by El Greco’s epic canvasses.
Giacometti was born in the Swiss village of Borgonovo to a well known post-impressionist artist
As a child, he was a prolific painter and honed his skill making copies of the works of artists across art history.
In 1922, he moved to Paris where he continued to create reproductions in his scrapbooks, something he continued throughout his life.
Giacometti was always concerned with the human form something that recurred throughout his work, but representations changed depending on his creative concerns which by the 1930s were firmly anchored in surrealism.
“For me, sculpture, painting, and drawing have always been means of understanding my own vision of the outside world, and above all the face and the whole of the human being,” Giacometti said of his practice.
“Or to put it more simply, of my fellow creatures, and especially of those who for one reason or another are closest to me,” the artist added.