Galleria Borghese exhibition juxtaposes Giacometti and its own inventory of historic sculpture

Comparisons between the Swiss superstar sculptor and the greats of previous centuries are inevitable


Rome. “When I go to the Louvre nowadays, I observe the people looking at the works of art. The sublime for me lies more in their faces than in the works.” These were the words of Alberto Giacometti as he tried to explain how, for an artist, the greatest adventure is the attempt to capture the fleeting sensation one feels when faced with reality. “Every day one sees something new in the same face, something previously unknown happens.”

This month, the Galleria Borghese in Rome, is creating a dialogue between 40 works by the Swiss artist and the museum’s sculpture collection in an exhibition organised by Anna Coliva, the gallery’s director, and Christian Klemm, an expert on Giacometti who has organised major exhibitions on the artist. The show is sponsored by the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico Artistico (Artistic Heritage Board) and the Polo Museale di Roma (the central museum authority for the city of Rome).

Giacometti (1901-66) was born in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, where he began his training. In 1919, he moved to Paris and in 1928 joined the Surrealist group, where he focused on the unconscious and the imagination, and came to regard sculpture as “objects with a symbolic function”. After the Second World War, he struck up a friendship with Jean-Paul Sartre. Each influenced the other as Giacometti shifted his attention towards “reality”. In 1962, Giacometti was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale.

“The Villa on the Pincian Hill is by definition the home of sculpture: it houses major works ranging from Greek and Roman times to the Baroque period and the Neo-classical era,” Anna Coliva says. “We wanted to extend the historical development of sculpture by inserting a ‘missing link’, by which I mean contemporary sculpture as represented by Giacometti.”

In the entrance hall, visitors will see large-scale sculptures such as Femme Debout (standing woman), 1948, Homme qui Marche I (walking man I), 1961, (which in a Sotheby’s sale in 2010 fetched the highest price then paid for a work of art at auction) and Grande Tête (large head), 1960. The museum’s Canova Room will house early works by Giacometti, including Homme (Apollon) (man (Apollo)), 1929, Tête qui Regarde (watching head), 1928, and Femme Couchée qui Rêve (recumbent woman dreaming), 1929, whose characteristic visionary, dream-like abstraction will serve as a counterpoint to the timeless beauty of Canova’s Pauline Bonaparte, 1805-08. The room that is home to Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, 1622-25, will be shared with four bronzes from Giacometti’s “Femme de Venise” (woman from Venice) cycle, 1956. Finally, the Sala di Lanfranco will be the setting for a series of extraordinary head-and-shoulders portraits, including Buste de Diego (bust of Diego), 1954, Buste d’Homme (Lothar II) (bust of man, Lothar II), 1964-65, and Lothar III, 1965.

Works have been loaned by major institutions and museums such as the Fondation Alberto and Annette Giacometti, Paris, the Alberto Giacometti Stiftung at the Zurich Kunsthaus, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Fondation Marguerite et Aimé Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, the Beyeler Collection, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice and the Phillips Collection in Washington.

Giacometti: Sculpture,

Galleria Borghese, Rome,

4 December - 11 March

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Giacometti: bridging the past and the future'