A few weeks ago, I found three vintage Herman Miller Eames fiberglass upholstered armchairs on the street. I took them home in a cab for $30, a minuscule fraction of what new ones cost at $925 each. I can only imagine what it felt like when an eagle-eyed customer spotted a nice chandelier in a London shop in the 1960s, paid £250 and then later learned it is one of the few lighting fixtures made by famed Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti.
The unique bronze chandelier, which dates to the 1940s, was recently sold by Christie’s at auction for $3.52 million (£2.922 million). The price surpassed its estimate range of $1.8 million to $3 million (£1.5 million to £2.5 million) but fell far below a similar piece that sold in 2018 for roughly $9.3 million.
According to the Guardian, the chandelier was likely commissioned in 1946 or 1947 by Giacometti’s late friend, the art collector Peter Watson. It first hung in the offices of Horizon, a now-defunct U.K. cultural journal, for two years before it was placed in storage and eventually found its way to a London antique shop.
English painter John Craxton bought the chandelier from the antique shop in the 1960s and displayed it in his home in Hampstead, London, for 50 years.
In 2021, the Fondation Giacometti in Paris authenticated the lighting fixture — and even deemed it one of the most significant entries in the sculptor’s design career. This was due to the chandelier’s suspended ball, which only appears elsewhere in Giacometti’s early sculpture La Boule suspendue (1922).
The value of sculptures by Giacometti are among the priciest on the market. His 1947 bronze piece, L’Homme au Doigt (The Man with the Finger), sold in 2015 for $141.3 million. It is currently the single most expensive sculpture to be sold at auction.
ARTnews associate editor Tessa Solomon previously wrote about how Giacometti’s prices “are preceded by his towering legacy as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. The works are easily recognizable, too, often featuring small, slender figures whose skin resembles harshly hewed rock.”
In addition to Giacometti’s work as a sculptor, the artist worked with his brother Diego to produce decorative household objects and furniture pieces. In a statement, Christie’s said this work “gave the elder Giacometti financial freedom to pursue his more radical artistic agenda.”
“Objects interest me hardly any less than sculpture, and there is a point at which the two touch,” he once said. These additional household goods were made starting in 1929, and done in collaboration with the highly influential interior designer Jean Michel Frank. Often featured in publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and patronized by the fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, the Giacometti home goods sold well to a loyal clientele. They have also commanded high prices at auction.
Last December, a Christie’s sale of home items designed by Alberto and Diego Giacometti saw eight out of the 10 items sell for above their estimates. A floor lamp by Alberto sold for $504,000, double the top range of its estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
According to Giacometti’s foundation, more than half of Alberto’s decorative work was lighting, including lamps and sconces.