Sotheby’s have secured a monumental sculpture by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti for an unconventional “sealed bid” sale. As part of the modern and contemporary art evening sales in New York, the confidential bidding ran from 20-27 October 2020.
Unlike traditional auctions, ‘In Confidence: A Masterpiece by Alberto Giacometti’was held in complete secrecy. Sotheby’s have not revealed the final purchase price either, in accordance with the seller’s wishes. Curious collectors had to submit a private bid above the staggering reserve price of $90 million (£69.3 million).
“We conceived of this sale as a unique approach to this special object,” explained Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s vice chairman of global fine arts. The competitive sale aimed “to embrace the worldwide appeal of such an iconic work by one of the masters of the 20th century with the privacy clients expect when bidding at this price level.”
The winning bid must have exceeded the second highest by at least five percent, otherwise another round will take place.
‘Grande femme I’ is the largest sculpture ever made by Giacometti, standingat an impressive 2.68 metres tall. Cast in bronze, the sculpture’s spindly form and tactile surface is a perfect example of Giacometti’s iconic style. He made the piece between 1958 and 1960 as part of a series of monumental female figures for an unrealised outdoor installation at Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York.
“It’s mesmerizing. It places us in the artwork. How you encounter it and how it makes you feel is so much part of the work and his intention,” marvelled Lampley. She added that its vast size pushes viewers into a state of “reflection and an introspection about your place in the world.”
Giacometti’s sculpture also has a stellar provenance, having been owned by Chicago collector, Robert Mayer, and New York art dealer and former Major League Baseball team owner, Jeffrey Loria.
Its current owner, American billionaire businessman, Ron Perelman, has already sold a whopping $350 million (£269.3 million) worth of art during his career. Perelman recently announced his intentions to streamline his assets in response to the worldwide financial instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In August, the 77-year-old said it was time “to clean house, simplify and give others the chance to enjoy some of the beautiful things that I’ve acquired just as I have for decades.”
Bidding for works by Giacometti peaked in 2015, when ‘L’homme au doigt’ was purchased at Christie’s New York for a record-breaking $141.3 million (£108.7 million). For now, we can only speculate as to how many millions a keen collector was willing to part with for ‘Grande femme I’.