On 6 March 2017 Christie’s Paris is set to offer a selection of pieces by renowned designer Diego Giacometti (1902-1985), brother of the sculptor Alberto Giacometti, custom-made for the collection of one of the 20th century’s greatest fashion designers, Hubert de Givenchy. The sale — Les Giacometti d’Hubert de Givenchy — is to be preceded by a week-long view, in tribute to Giacometti’s work and his close friendship with Givenchy. All the lots in the sale can be viewed below.
Now approaching his 90th birthday, Givenchy has designed for some of Hollywood’s biggest names, from Elizabeth Taylor to Audrey Hepburn, who wore his now-iconic little black dress in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He met Giacometti as his career took off, having been ‘fascinated’ by the pure aesthetic of a guéridon, or small table, which Giacometti had made, gifted to Givenchy by the textile designer and art collector Gustav Zumsteg.
The elegant Château de Jonchet, Givenchy’s home
Giacometti made several sculptures of labradors for Givenchy, often basing his designs on photographs of the designer's own dogs
Commenting on the sale, François de Ricqlès, President of Christie’s France, said: ‘It is with great pride that we present The Giacometti of Hubert de Givenchy. Through Hubert de Givenchy’s collection, whose taste and elegance are the inspiration for many collectors, we are able to pay tribute to one of the most poetic and talented artists of the 20th century, Diego Giacometti.’
The sentiment is echoed by Givenchy, who adds: ‘With this sale, I want to pay a further tribute to him, an additional recognition which he does not need, but which shows how important he was to me.’
If Givenchy’s own circle was star-studded, Giacometti’s was equally impressive. As a young man, Giacometti had travelled from his native Switzerland to Paris to collaborate with the renowned interior designer Jean-Michel Frank, who introduced him to fashion legends including Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel and Hélène Rochas. It was here that Giacometti met Zumsteg, who worked for clients including Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as Hubert de Givenchy.
Perhaps the most famous of Diego Giacometti’s circle, however, was his brother Alberto, 13 months older than Diego, with whom he shared a small apartment in Montparnasse and a studio in Rue Hippolyte-Maindron. Their collaboration was a life-long one, spanning 40 years until Alberto’s death in 1966.
Hubert de Givenchy, pictured in Paris
In Paris, Diego soon became the preferred designer within the city’s most fashionable circles, receiving orders to furnish private apartments, including that belonging to Aimé and Marguerite Maeght. The couple had always supported and promoted the Giacometti brothers, and acquired several sculptures by Alberto before asking Diego to design their home on Paris’s Avenue Foch. A further commission followed, for the Maeght Foundation founded in 1964 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, 25km from Nice.
Following Alberto’s death Diego became devoted to the orders he received, including one in 1984 for the Musée Picasso, which was inaugurated a year later.
Of their first meeting, Givenchy recalls, ‘I asked Gustav Zumsteg if it was possible to meet Giacometti, and he introduced me to him shortly afterwards.’ The encounter marked the beginning of a friendship that would endure for 20 years. ‘He was a very kind man: simple, welcoming, discreet, and a talented craftsman,’ says the designer. Giacometti made his first pieces for Givenchy’s house at Jouy at the end of 1960, and from the early 1970s worked on bespoke pieces for the designer’s elegant Château de Jonchet in the Loire Valley.
The sale on 6 March will be preceded by a week-long viewing inspired by the only exhibition dedicated to Diego Giacometti, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1986, curated by Daniel Marchesseau. The 21 objects offered will include a pair of magnificent bronze octagonal dining tables, four bronze stools, and a major white patina lantern that hung in the main staircase of Givenchy’s chateau, which preceded the one created for the Musée Picasso.