GIVENCHY and his GIACOMETTIS
A seminal sale in the world of interiors is looming. In a few hours, in Paris, important objets that were the result of a fruitful and exciting collaboration between two giants in the worlds of art and fashion of the 20th C will be, A-Gent of Style predicts, snapped by fervent collectors. Albeit small as it contains only twenty-one pieces, the auction under the aegis of Christie’s has already gathered great momentum and exposure online and in the press over the last few weeks – The Financial Times’ How To Spend It gave it yesterday its cover and main feature. And it is bound to heighten the price points.
The great couturier Hubert de Givenchy will be parting with his unique and unparalleled collection of museum-quality Giacomettis. ‘Even if my heart tightens at the idea of parting with these objects, that’s it,’ the designer explains. ‘My decision has been taken.’ The pieces in the collection are all personal and tell a specific story about the relationship and friendship that span decades between the two men. ‘I was already an admirer of his amazing creations, which he made with a lot of imagination and dexterity,’ explains M. de Givenchy, approaching 90, of how this special relationship began. The man who created iconic garments for some of Hollywood’s biggest names — from Audrey Hepburn (the little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is his) to Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman — was initially ‘seduced’ by the shape of Giacometti’s octagonal tables. Three of these very important examples (estimate £700,000-£1m) are offered in the sale which also includes four bronze stools and a major white patina lantern that hung in the main staircase of Givenchy’s chateau, which preceded the one created for the Musée Picasso in 1984 (still beautifully hanging with other white patinated lanterns in the main staircase). Giacometti, then not as popular as his sculptor brother Alberto Giacometti, was commissioned by the likes of Henri Samuel or Bunny Mellon and made his first pieces for Givenchy’s house at Jouy at the end of 1960 (he was introduced to the Swiss artist by art dealer Aimé Maeght, he of the famous Foundation in St-Paul-de-Vence), and from the early 1970s worked on bespoke pieces for the designer’s elegant and well-storied Renaissance Château de Jonchet in the Loire Valley, a couple of hours away from Paris.
‘Every time I asked for something [Giacometti] would write the idea down in his notebook, like a schoolboy,’ recalls de Givenchy. ‘Once he started working on a piece, he would ask me to come and take a look at the maquette, and it was always much more beautiful than the thing I’d had in mind, not only because of the imagination [it revealed] but also because of the incredible subtlety and refinement.’
Animals (dogs, deer, birds) are a recurring theme in the pieces Giacometti designed for de Givenchy, who describes them as ‘touching and endearing’. ‘The animal “talks”, his face is made with intelligence, infused with life. Each time [he made one], it was like a story,’ he adds. ‘Beautiful stories.’ ‘With this sale, I want to pay a further tribute to him, an additional recognition which he does not need, but which shows how important he was to me.’
Once again, it is time to see a private collection that encompasses decades of passion and a special relationship but also that captures a special era and aesthetics be disseminated into various, anonymous homes. A-Gent of Style was fortunate to see several Giacometti pieces over the years at antiques dealers, fairs or viewing exhibitions, and has alway been fascinated by his work instantly recognisable by its delicate, fragile-looking yet hand-wrought finished pieces and charmed by the elegance, craftmanship and humanity of his works especially the white patina lights, the birds and of course the doggies.
It won’t be too long before we see these iconic pieces suddenly emerge in another magazine feature or a sale, taken out of a new context and given a new chapter of their lives. And even if the gracious and restrained Manor du Jonchet is strongly associated with its Giacomettis, how exciting to ponder and fantasise over what it will look like without them and what they will be replaced with (if at all).
Art defies time, boundaries and slipping into oblivion. In the great word of Jeanne Moreau (this one is for you, G.E): “My life is very exciting now. Nostalgia for what? It’s like climbing a staircase. I’m on the top of the staircase, I look behind and see the steps. That’s where I was. We’re here right now. Tomorrow, we’ll be someplace else. So why nostalgia? ”
Below some images taken from Instagram of the viewing exhibition at Christie’s Paris curated by Monsieur de Givenchy himself.