Wednesday, 10 February 2010

ART: The Value of a Giacometti

There is a lot to like, and a lot to dislike about the contemporary art world. Top of the dislike hit parade has to be the obscene sums of money that continue to be paid by super-rich collectors and corporations even in these post-credit crunch times. Alberto Giacometti's statue "L'Homme qui marche" became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when it was bought for £65m at Sotheby's in London recently ( It was previously part of the collection of the collapsed Dresdner Bank.
The sum paid is over three times the amount the UK Government has pledged to help the relief programme in Haiti. The identity of the buyer is unknown, and there is no guarantee that the statue will be on public view. It is true that some of the World's top art owners keep works on open display and have a real appreciation for art, Saatchi possibly being an example. But for many it is possession and a future profitable return that matters above all. The belief is that ownership equals appreciation, and that ownership make a cultured person of the owner.
Is the statue any good, though? Yes, indeed it is. No doubt many would be as disparaging about this work as they would about modern art generally. "A child could have done it": No, I doubt a child could have sculpted this figure. Certainly there is a child-like quality to many of Picasso's late paintings, but I like to look at children's art; it is difficult for adults to retain the innocence of a child's vision. "It's not realistic": As with most modern art it's not intended to be realistic. Giacometti said that his aim was to express his emotional response to his model, usually a relative or close friend.
I agree with the critics that have said that Giacometti's sculptures express something about the alienation of life in the modern world. The thinness of this figure exaggerates the space around the figure, the space becomes more significant than the figure. There is a grim determination in the figure's stride, but he doesn't move and his destination is never to be reached. In some of his other sculptures, figures are placed close together, but they cannot communicate or interact in any way; they may as well be light years apart. These simple carvings express deep philosophical insights with a beautiful simplicity. That makes them priceless, not in the sense that any of them are worth more that £65 million, but in the sense that they shouldn't have a price; they should belong to us all.


  1. I've seen that statue in real life in a museum in Holland and I think it is art indeed. A child deffo couldnt have done this, but with some other things such as some painting of artists, I do think; why is this art?
    It's mainly art because the artist is a famous artist, therefore everything he makes is art. I think that's so rubbish ;\ Art is art when you want it to be. If I will make a drawing right now and let people look at it and think about it; it's art. But it's not defined as art, because I'm not famous.
    I think everything that is made is art, as long as you can let people think about it or let people see your art in different ways. Or just simply let them like/hate it. There should be no price for art, like you say. If you like it, you like it. Otherwise, you don't :)

  2. I agree with your point about fame, Maaike. I think it's great that the internet enables us to discover so many, painters, sculptors, musicians, film makers, writers etc. who are not 'famous', or not yet famous.