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Alberto Giacometti

Paris foundation loses battle to cast bronzes from original Giacometti plasters

The decision, backed by the Zurich's Giacometti Stiftung and the Berthoud family, has been appealed

A French high court has ruled that the Paris-based Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation is prohibited from producing posthumous bronze casts from original plasters created by the Swiss sculptor. The ruling scuppers the foundation’s plan to cast 21 additional bronze sculptures, that would have entered its permanent collection.

The Paris foundation, which says that works created posthumously protect and enhance Giacometti’s reputation, lost its legal battle in September against the Giacometti Stiftung Foundation in Zürich and the Berthoud family, who opposed the Paris foundation’s request. All three parties have moral rights to Giacometti’s work, though the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation has the majority stake in the estate’s patrimonial rights (including the right to publish and reproduce).

The legal dispute began in April when the Paris foundation sued the opposing parties on the grounds that both were “abusing their veto power on reproduction rights”. The foundation requested 21 sculptures be cast in bronze based on editions started by Giacometti, but it is not clear on how many originals the 21 works would have been based. The foundation says only that “the legal right to cast 12 original editions in bronze from the plasters had not been fully exercised.” Under French law, art editions are limited to 12. Christian Klemm, curator of the Giacometti Stiftung Foundation in Zürich, says “the family considers that control of the casts by the artist is important.”

The French court declared that Giacometti’s art already has a high profile through the numerous works loaned to exhibitions by the Paris foundation. The judge decreed that the “rule of unanimity” should prevail, finding in favour of the majority parties.

The Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation has appealed against the verdict.

The Paris foundation also sought to cast a small number of editions (limited to 12) “to be sold both to fund its activities and to fulfill its mission to disseminate Giacometti’s works.” According to the French web publication, Le Quotidien de L’Art, the foundation wants to realise two castings of L’Homme qui Marche II, 1960, one for its own collection and another for the Louis Vuitton foundation in Paris. In February 2010, the artist’s L’Homme qui Marche I, cast during his lifetime in 1961, became the most expensive work ever to sell at auction when it went for £65m. Prices drop for posthumous casts, but are still significant: in 2004 a Femme de Venise VII, conceived in 1956 but cast in 1979, sold for £1.9m.

But will the ruling affect the Gagosian gallery, which has been granted a mandate from the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation to sell the sculptor’s posthumous casts, 11 of which were included in a 2007 exhibition in London? The bronzes, worth at least $10m, were the first to be made under a deal thought to be worth around $54m. “Our arrangement [with Gagosian] is not affected by the court’s decision,” said a spokesman for the foundation.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Foundation loses battle to cast original Giacomettis'