Annette Messager’s imaginary love affair with Giacometti

Annette Messager’s imaginary love affair with Giacometti
Annette Messager, 2018 Photo Marc Domage
Leading lights  -   Artists

A surprising, often subversive carte blanche on view at the Giacometti Institute through January 13, 2019, pairs works by contemporary French artist Annette Messager with those by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti in the institute’s new Paris space.


Alberto Giacometti’s “Standing Nude (Annette),” (1961) oil on canvas, 69 x 49.5 cm.



Messager conceived of the exhibition as an imaginary “love affair” with the deceased artist, inventing a kind of dialogue in which Giacometti becomes an active participant. In the company of curator Christian Alandete, Messager explored the Giacometti Foundation’s collection and the artist’s archives to create “Nos chambres” (Our Rooms), an exhibition a series of chambres à deux – rooms for two that give the impression of their works and lives intertwined, juxtaposing her creations with often little-known sculptures, drawings, notebooks, or personal documents she uncovered in Giacometti’s archives.


Annette Messager’s “Mother and Child” (2018) alongside Alberto Giacometti’s “The Nose” (1947).


The thematic exhibition begins with the “room of encounters” dedicated to those Giacometti “met, loved, admired and hated” – from intimate drawings to love letters to his wife Annette to correspondence with Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, Miró or André Breton. Next, the “room of legends,” a modified version Messager’s Sans légende (2011-12), a dark, threatening cityscape that includes small, rotating lights and several “overtly fake” versions of Giacometti’s Walking Man, dog and clock. The “nose-to-nose room” then brings together works by Giacometti and Messager, including Giacometti’s iconic Le nez (The Nose) (first version was created in 1947), an imprisoned, disembodied Pinocchio head whose nose protrudes from a cage; alongside Messager’s 2015 Tribute to Giacometti and new pieces created for the exhibit, subversive, dark and comical, including her Mother and Child and Moon-Nose.


Annette Messager’s “Mother and Child,” 2018.



Annette Messager’s “The Ball-Sleeping Bag,” 2018.


The following space, entitled the “room of disorders,” brings together works by Messager from different periods on themes related to Giacometti, including drawings and photographs as well as Rodin avec Giacometti sur Barbie, which combines images of the two great sculptors with the famous doll, and sculpture that folds a sleeping bag into a vagina shape that evokes the crescent moon and ball in Giacometti’s surrealistic suspended ball.

The exhibition concludes with the “room of Annettes,” which plays on another intimate link between the two artists thanks to the important women in his life who share the same first name: Giacometti’s mother Annetta, his wife Annette and now Annette Messager, who with this exhibition seems to have been tenderly inducted into the family circle.

Located in an Art Deco townhouse in Montparnasse just a few blocks from Giacometti’s original studio (which no longer exists), the institute was conceived as a vitrine for the Foundation’s collection. Its centerpiece is a glassed-in reconstitution of the artist’s tiny, cramped atelier just beyond the building’s entrance. The space itself is intimate (around 370 square meters), and visits are by appointment only to prevent overcrowding.

All works by Alberto Giacometti: Collection Fondation Giacometti, Paris. © Succession Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris + ADAGP, Paris). All works by Annette Messager: © Annette Messager et Galerie Marian Goodman.  All photographs are by Marc Domage.