Alberto Giacometti

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(7user reviews)
Alberto Giacometti, 'Man Pointing', 1947. © The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2016.
Giacometti, Alberto, 'The Studio I', 1954. © The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2016.

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

If you’ve heard of Alberto Giacometti, you’re probably thinking: ‘Oh yes, that bloke who did the spindly stick people.’ So much has already been written and said about the Swiss artist; luckily, this show doesn’t attempt anything too spurious. But that invites a slightly worrying question: if there’s nothing new to add to the Giacometti story, then does he still matter?

The first few rooms go through the usual motions: formative years, early influences. He was 21 when he moved from Switzerland to Paris to train as a sculptor and entered an art scene that would have been a feverish petri dish of avant-garde movements and radical ideas. It’s interesting to see how the young Alberto dabbled in cubism and surrealism, and how he applied them to his twin sources of obsession: the head and figure. Lots of the early stuff is delicate and sensual – informed by the art of non-Western cultures like Ancient Egypt and West Africa – but do look out for the fascinatingly horrifying ‘Woman With Her Throat Cut’ (1932), a deconstructed heap of abstracted body parts, its ribcage open like a sprung bear-trap.

By the time World War Two broke out, Giacometti found himself trapped in Switzerland and working on figurative sculptures that were growing ever smaller, in an attempt to depict a sense of distance between viewer and subject. Let’s be honest, bronze figures the shape and size of a matchstick should come off as a bit gimmicky. But they don’t. It’s at this point you realise the one, embarrassingly simple revelation of this exhibition: Giacometti’s stick figures are incredible.

Plenty are on display here. Some are life-size, some are eight feet tall; some are ensconced in cage-like boxes, some are fixed on things resembling wheelchairs. There’s so much to discover here, whether it’s the jarring optical effect walking around his elongated heads induces, or the primordial way faces and limbs emerge from shapeless mounds of thumb-pocked plaster, or the sense that these isolated figures are imprisoned on their bases. Alongside them are his paintings and drawings – portraits of his wife, brother, mistress, peers – so frantically layered and overworked around the all-important head area that you can practically feel a gravitational pull.

There’s no getting round the fact that Giacometti is an anachronism, an artist of the previous century, the product of a bygone era when you could still get away with making ludicrous statements like ‘when my wife poses for me, I simply don’t recognise her’. That we don’t learn anything new here about him is fine. Sometimes you just need reminding that artists became famous for a reason. In this way, he still matters.


By: Matt Breen


Users say (7)

4 out of 5 stars

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Absolutely spoilt by the exhibition. Considering how much time you can spend staring at the details in each sculpture, this exhibition is akin to seeing trees in a forest. Sometimes it feels literally so with its long slender profiles, and larger than life pieces.

This exhibition delivers an easy-to-follow progression, with context, and a variety of medium/scale from Giacometti. Clearly not an one trick pony, the show examines the process and turns taken by the artist to achieve such simple expressive sculptures.


An amazing retrospective of the artist’s work, this exhibition manages to be super rich in material but still not tiringly big. 

As it’s common at the Tate Modern, mainly in a show’s last days, it gets super crowded, what doesn’t always allow for a good view of the works. Adding to that, a good amount of the sculptures were positioned close to the walls and are not allowed to be approached, so it was impossible to go around and see them from different angles. That was a very unfortunate choice of the curators!
But that aside, the first room alone, with a sea of heads, is a impressive entrance to the show and a hint to what’s to come. Being able to see less famous artworks, some studies and a good amount of the work Giacometti is famous for is a really good way to apprehend his career. 


I am a HUGE FAN. This is a stupendous exhibition to enjoy, experience, linger and immense yourself in. And to come again and again.

There were at least two heads of Simone de Beauvoir. He was friends with Sartre.

I won't give you more details. You jsut have to experience him yourself and make time for the video... it's worth it.


I haven't known much about Giacometti, but this exhibition was really fascinating. Well described and organised and the amount of pieces was just perfect for an 2h afternoon visit. If you are interested in art at all, go and see it, it's really great inspiration.


This is the second Giacometti exhibition in London of late - the NPG's 'Pure Presence' show fell in the 2015/16 season and was very well received. There is clearly, therefore, an appetite for his work.

The Tate Modern's exhibition works in broader strokes than the showing at the NPG, and as such gives a much more well-rounded view of the artist. You get to see his sketches, paintings and, of course, his sculpture.

For me, it is the sculptural work where Giacometti's magic is most evident. He completed pieces on a tiny scale, whilst also producing huge works that tower over the audience. His unique visual signature is said to explore the figure in the post-war era, everything irrelevant stripped away. For me, I just find the nature of his work mesmerising.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole exhibition, and definitely recommend it.

This exhibition is like a good Wikipedia page. 

You find yourself interested in something, so you go through its Wiki page.
After seeing this exhibition, I know a lot more about Giacometti than I did before visiting (which was very little) and I agree, he's really good. Some pieces were rather extraordinary and I came back to look at them.

As a summary, this works perfectly well.

What is lacking a little is any sense of controversy...however why do I miss that? Not sure. Perhaps contemporary art has a bad influence on me!