His name is Italian, his citizenship is Swiss, and his sculpture with the French name set a price record when it sold at auction in 2010. Alberto Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, Switzerland, near the Italian border on October 10, 1901. After attending the school of Fine Arts in Geneva, he moved to Paris to work with Antoine Bourdelle. It was in Paris that Giacometti experimented with cubism before becoming known as one of the leading surrealist sculptors.
Giacometti preferred to work with the same models over and over, making their limbs more and more abstracted, more and more elongated. He was rarely satisfied with his work, sometimes smashing pieces or putting them to one side for years before trying to rework them. Giacometti said that he wasn’t sculpting the human form, but rather “the shadow that it cast.” In 1962, Giacometti found international fame when he won the grand prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale.
He died of heart disease and bronchitis on January 11, 1966. L’Homme qui marche I sold for over $100 million USD in 2010. That sculpture and its creator appear on the Swiss 100 Franc bill. It would take 979,482 of those 100 franc bills to buy that same sculpture.
Today’s expression, mince alors! (manse ahlor) is a mild exclamation akin to “holy cow!” in English. It literally means “thin then!” – which is quite ridiculous. Giacommeti’s sculptures were as mince as he could possibly make them and now they sell for mince alors! prices.
- Alberto Giacometti (paulsmith.co.uk)
- Introducing the Paris Review App! (theparisreview.org)
- Don’t lose your head (foldedcranes.com)