Hubert de Givenchy: ‘You can feel Diego’s fingers in everything he created’

The legendary fashion designer discusses his collection of bespoke pieces by Diego Giacometti ahead of our 6 March sale in Paris — and offers an exclusive glimpse inside his château

‘You can feel the artist’s hand, Diego’s fingers in everything he created,’ says Hubert de Givenchy as he discusses his long friendship with Diego Giacometti. The sale of 21 pieces made by Giacometti for the great couturier — Les Giacometti d’Hubert de Givenchy — takes place at Christie’s in Paris on 6 March. ‘Even if my heart tightens at the idea of parting with these objects, that’s it,’ the designer explains. ‘My decision has been taken.’

‘What is so interesting about this collection is that it tells the story of a friendship between two artists,’ comments Pauline de Smedt, Christie’s Head of Design in Paris. The latter was unusual, she says, because he had two careers: ‘the first was as his brother Alberto’s assistant, and the second was as an artist in his own right.’ 

Diego Giacometti 1902-1985, Table, c. 1978. 54.5 x 61 x 38.5 cm (21½ x 24 x 15⅛ in). Estimate €150,000-200,000. This lot is offered in Les Giacometti dHubert de Givenchy  on 6 March 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

Diego Giacometti 1902-1985, Table, c. 1978. 54.5 x 61 x 38.5 cm (21½ x 24 x 15⅛ in). Estimate: €150,000-200,000. This lot is offered in Les Giacometti d'Hubert de Givenchy on 6 March 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

Diego Giacometti 1902-1985, Lanterne, c. 1983. 130 x 57.5 cm (51⅛ x 22⅝ in). Estimate €300,000-400,000. This lot is offered in Les Giacometti dHubert de Givenchy on 6 March 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

Diego Giacometti 1902-1985, Lanterne, c. 1983. 130 x 57.5 cm (51⅛ x 22⅝ in). Estimate: €300,000-400,000. This lot is offered in Les Giacometti d'Hubert de Givenchy on 6 March 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

The pieces in the collection are all personal and tell a specific story about the relationship between the two men. ‘I was already an admirer of his amazing creations, which he made with a lot of imagination and dexterity,’ explains M. de Givenchy of how this special relationship began. The man who created iconic pieces for some of Hollywood’s biggest names — from Audrey Hepburn to Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman — was initially ‘seduced’ by the shape of Giacometti’s octagonal tables, of which three very important examples are offered in the sale.

Other standout pieces being offered in Paris include Giacometti’s bronze of Mill Reef, the famous racehorse owned by Paul and Bunny Mellon. When the horse won the Grand Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe race in 1971, Hubert de Givenchy presented the first version of the relief to Mrs. Mellon, before ordering one of his own in 1973.

Diego Giacometti 1902-1985, Tourterelle, c. 1975. 15 x 23.5 x 8.5 cm (5⅞ x 9¼ x 3⅜ in). Estimate €20,000-30,000. This lot is offered in Les Giacometti dHubert de Givenchy on 6 March 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

Diego Giacometti 1902-1985, Tourterelle, c. 1975. 15 x 23.5 x 8.5 cm (5⅞ x 9¼ x 3⅜ in). Estimate: €20,000-30,000. This lot is offered in Les Giacometti d'Hubert de Givenchy on 6 March 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

Diego Giacometti 1902-1985, Mill Reef, second version, 1973. 11.5 x 13 x 7.5 cm (4½ x 5⅛ x 3 in). Estimate €60,000-80,000. This lot is offered in Les Giacometti dHubert de Givenchy on 6 March 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

Diego Giacometti 1902-1985, Mill Reef, second version, 1973. 11.5 x 13 x 7.5 cm (4½ x 5⅛ x 3 in). Estimate: €60,000-80,000. This lot is offered in Les Giacometti d'Hubert de Givenchy on 6 March 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

‘Every time I asked for something [Giacometti] would write the idea down in his notebook, like a schoolboy,’ recalls de Givenchy. ‘Once he started working on a piece, he would ask me to come and take a look at the maquette, and it was always much more beautiful than the thing I’d had in mind, not only because of the imagination [it revealed] but also because of the incredible subtlety and refinement.’

Animals are a recurring motif in the pieces Giacometti designed for de Givenchy, who describes them as ‘touching and endearing’. ‘The animal “talks”, his face is made with intelligence, infused with life. Each time [he made one], it was like a story,’ he adds. ‘Beautiful stories.’