Bought for $300, auctioned for $3.5 million

Bought for $300, auctioned for $3.5 million

The incredible story of a Giacometti chandelier that has now come under the hammer at Christie’s auction house.

A true masterpiece and more of a sculpture than a decorative object is Giacometti’s chandelier.Christie’s

He had a suspicion when he discovered the chandelier in London’s antique shop Denton’s on Marylebone Road. The British painter John Craxton was convinced that his late friend and patron Peter Watson had commissioned this very chandelier from the famous Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.

Craxton acquired the piece for a bargain price of $300. Around 50 years later, the piece was sold at a Christie’s auction in London – eleven thousand times as expensive. Giacometti’s works are among the most expensive on the market.

Alberto Giacometti: Pioneer of Modern Sculpture

Giacometti’s famous figure “L’homme au doigt” was created in the same year as the chandelier. It was auctioned at Christie’s in 2015 for a whopping $141.3 million. It is still the most expensive sculpture in auction history.

Craxton died in 2009. He did not live to see the chandelier authenticated by the Fondation Giacometti. For 50 years, the chandelier decorated the music room of his house in the elegant London district of Hampstead. Previously it hung in the lobby of the literary magazine Horizon.

Peter Watson was a co-founder of the newspaper and a major art collector of modern and surrealist works from continental Europe. How exactly the chandelier ended up in the antique shop is unclear. After the newspaper closed in 1949, it was probably put into storage and put up for sale years after Watson’s death.

During a trip to Europe between 1946 and 1947, Watson commissioned Giacometti to make the chandelier. The bronze work of art with golden brown patina was created in 1947. It is about 135 by 150 centimeters. The design looks abstract and rustic. A hollow sphere with round recesses hangs from a strong rod, which is crossed horizontally by three moving, tapering rods. The decoration of the candlesticks is reminiscent of leaves, a contrast to the otherwise geometric shapes.

As a pioneer of modern sculpture, Giacometti is best known for his overly slender, distorted figures. However, he also created half a dozen candlesticks, with this one standing out. With the floating ball, it is reminiscent of Giacometti’s famous sculpture “La Boule Suspendue”. The fact that it hung in another famous artist’s house also adds to its value.

Between utility and sculpture

Giacometti was part of the surreal movement and opposed the rise of functionalism. Each piece he created became a unique work of art. The boundaries between everyday objects and sculptures become blurred. He himself declared: “There was no difference then between what I called a sculpture and what was actually an object!”

Art appraiser James Glennie of Art & Antiques Appraisals told the Guardian: “Alberto only made half a dozen chandeliers, but none of them has such a history, and Peter Watson’s chandelier should therefore be considered a sculpture rather than a chandelier.”

A true masterpiece, then, which Craxton discovered in the antique shop window and cherished throughout his life, although its true value was never confirmed.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent News

Editor's Pick