Alberto Giacometti and Yves Klein are arguably two of the most interesting and most loved artists of the twentieth century. Both Paris-based artists had an interest in the human form. While both men produced artwork at the same time, there is no evidence of the pair ever meeting. While Klein’s widow claims that she did see the two together, the only clear link of the duo ever having any kind of mark on the other is the presentation at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, of a sketch made by Giacometti in blue biro on top of a newspaper advertisement of an Yves Klein show.
The show at Gagosian is the first time that work by Giacometti and Klein have ever been presented together. It is a spellbinding display of 25 works by each artist shown in dialogue with one another. While one may be forgiven to think that the styles of each artist are very different to each other, they seem to blend together harmoniously in the Mayfair gallery. The shocking blue of Klein’s work appears to seem much calmer when hung behind Giacometti’s elongated bronze figures.
Both Giacometti and Klein were conscious of the effects that the Second World War had on the culture and people of Europe. The curator, Joachim Pissarro has been quoted as saying that ‘both artists, rather than creating something that reflected the chaos, chose to rise above it, transforming and deciphering it into elegant, lyrical matter.’ This is seen with Klein’s playful anthropometric paintings made from the blue imprints of nude ladies onto canvas, juxtaposing the thin, drawn out, serious characters constructed by Giacometti.
My two standout pieces from the show are both sculptural works. The first comes in the form of a sponge painted in the infamous Klein blue. It looks like a human brain, and while this should in theory make the viewer feel ill, it is strangely pleasing to the eye. It does not look real and is just begging to be touched, unfortunately though, it has been protected by a screen of glass. The other object that left its mark on me was made by Giacometti. A sculpture entitled Le Nez, or ‘the nose’ in English comprises a male face with a comically long nose – it reminded me of Pinocchio and the child inside me jumped with glee at the sight of this sculpture.
Not only is the show strangely alluring, it is also a historical first and an absolute must see.
Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein: In Search of the Absolute is on display at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill until 11 June