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Giacometti in the Museo del Prado

Alberto Giacometti, the sculptor popularly known today for his exaggerated human figures that seem to occupy the territory between abstract and figurative, is currently being commemorated by Madrid’s most iconic museum, the Museo del Prado.

For its bicentenary celebrations the museum has organised an extensive series of exhibitions and events that will continue till the end of this year including Giacometti in the Museo del Prado an exhibition that includes 20 works, 18 sculptures and 2 oil paintings on loan from both private and public collections from Spain and beyond. Curated by Carmen Giménez, the selected pieces are drawn from the period between 1945 and 1966, the date of Giacometti’s death. The exhibition is conceived as a posthumous visit to the Museum by Giacometti (he never visited Spain) where the art works move through the principal galleries where some of the greatest masterpieces of the permanent collection are on display.

An exhibition within an exhibiton

This curatorial approach (linking the permanent and temporal exhibition) is key to Giacometti’s understanding of what art is and how it exists in a continuum where everything exists simultaneously, rather than simply a linear or evolutionary understanding of art history. The works are contextualised with paintings by some of Giacometti’s favourite painters; figures such as Dürer, Raphael, Tintoretto, El Greco, Goya and Velázquez.

The route commences with the gallery that displays Velázquez’s Las Meninas, where a grouping of Giacometti figures Tall Woman III, Tall Woman IV, Large Head and Walking Man are juxtaposed with the Spanish painter’s extraordinary masterpiece. The Chariot is paired with Titian’s portrait of Charles V at Mühlberg, the same gallery where the two paintings by Giacometti are also displayed. The series of seven sculptures Women of Venice (commissioned originally for the French pavilion at the Venice Biennial in 1956) is displayed next to Tintoretto’s Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet adjacent to the galleries that house the museum’s El Greco paintings drawing obvious parallels with Giacometti’s Standing Woman sculpture and its exaggerated proportions. And finally The Leg is exhibited next to Zurbarán’s “Hercules” series with their gothic fleshy texture that appears to almost leap from the canvas. 

Giacometti, an artist beyond a time

Born in Borgonovo Switzerland (the Canton of Grisons or Graubünden) in 1901 Alberto Giacometti became one of the most iconic and best known sculptors of the 20th Century. His background was artistic, his father Giovanni was a post-impressionist painter and from a young age Giacometti displayed a flare for art and draughtsmanship. After graduating from the Geneva School of Fine Art he moved to Paris in 1922 where he apprenticed to sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (who had been a disciple of Rodin). During that period the city was the art capital of the world and Giacometti associated with figures such as Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Bror Hjorth and Balthus who were the main exponents of Cubist and Surrealist art then. Styles that were adopted by Giacometti who quickly became regarded as one of the leading exponents of Surrealist sculpture.

Before the outbreak of Wordl War II Giacometti became interested in figurative representation of the human head, using live models, often in exaggerated proportions that tended towards being reductive in scale.

The post war period

After returning to Switzerland during the war Giacometti’s work changed considerably, perhaps reflecting the profound changes that were going on elsewhere in the world. His post World War II work is marked by a change in scale, in both the sculpture and painting, an obsessive reworking of his artworks as well as his public art commissions. Within his life time he was recognised with an exhibition of his work at the renowned Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The perfect base for art lovers

Whether it be The Principal Madrid or Hotel Único Madrid, both within comfortable walking distance of the Museo del Prado, either hotel offers the perfect base for art lovers visiting the capital city. The former occupies Madrid’s prime location at the commencement of Gran Vía with its nightlife, restaurants and bars. While the latter is to be found at the heart of the city’s most elegant neighbourhood, Salamanca surrounded by boutique shops, museums and private galleries.

Architecture, art and gastronomy come together in these privileged hotels where the rooms offer the perfect refuge to contemplate and absorb a busy day gallery trailing in what many consider to be the city with the most fascinating art galleries in the world. To round off a day of artistic inspiration the cuisine of Ramón Freixa, at Atico and Ramón Freixa Madrid, will inspire you in a different but no less profound way.

June 23, 2020