Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901–1966). “Mountain Landscape,” ca. 1921. Oil on canvas, 23 3/4 × 19 3/4 in. (60.3 × 50.1 cm). Fondation Giacometti. © Succession Alberto Giacometti / ADAGP, Paris, 2022.
One of the greatest of all Modern artists gets his first Heartland retrospective in a dynamic, exclusive exhibition this spring at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. “Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure,” on view from March 18 through June 18, 2023, will explore both the artist’s formation and how he developed his iconic figural works.
Organized by the Fondation Giacometti in Paris, the largest collection of the artist’s works, the exhibition features approximately 100 works in all media from all phases of Giacometti’s career.
For Giacometti, the human figure was the primary, essential communicator of meaning. Even as the art world grew ever more in thrall to abstraction — and even as he too responded to this trend — he never abandoned the human body. His figures — whether bust-length or full-length, stylized, attenuated and animated by extraordinarily expressive surfaces — still convey their innate humanity. They allow us to connect both uniquely and collectively, moving as we all do between the personal and the universal, the one and the many, the individual and the community.
While he is celebrated for his sculptures — instantly recognizable expressive, attenuated figures — this exhibition will also showcase Giacometti’s process and explore how he worked out his ideas in all media.
The exhibition is both chronological and thematic. Visitors will follow Alberto Giacometti from his days as young budding maker from an artistic family in Stampa, Switzerland, near the Italian border, to his relocation to Paris, where the ambitious young artist discovered a rustic studio that would become his site of inspiration and creation for the rest of his career. Out of this environment that nurtured him, visitors will see how Giacometti explored the relationship of figures to space, from thinking about their bases, to their movements, to arriving at the postures, positions and surfaces that would most effectively communicate his meanings. Along the way, certain close friends and family members — particularly his wife, Annette, and brother Diego — became some of his most trusted muses, appearing over and over again in his practice. Finally, the exhibition will examine several of his best-known types, Standing Woman and Walking Man.
The project began long before the pandemic, with many discussions between our director, Julián Zugazagoitia, and the Fondation Giacometti. Delayed by the pandemic, it finally arrives in Kansas City after successful stops at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Each venue has put its own stamp upon the project. At the Nelson-Atkins, our special story brings attention to our own The Chariot (1950), one of Giacometti’s best-known sculptures. Unveiled in 1950, it quickly became a symbol of the psychological state of post-World War II Europe. In an exclusive sidebar presentation in the Nelson’s exhibition, we also explore another aspect of its history: Giacometti’s love of Ancient Egyptian art. Selected Egyptian art from our collections will be featured alongside Giacometti, providing a new way of looking at both.
The exhibition is also accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with contributions by members of the curatorial team from the entire tour.
As powerful aesthetic and intellectual objects, as indelible records of a modern world marked by dramatic change and an artistic innovator’s creative way of navigating through them, the works of art in this exhibition are not to be missed.
–William Keyse Rudolph, PhD, Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs