Philatelic Musings on Art: Record Auction Price for Giacometti Sculpture


Guest post by Mark H. Haimann, MD

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Alberto Giacometti's “Walking Man I”
(Source: catalogue.sothebys. com/events/L10002)

Well...You have to wonder what kind of person would spend more than one hundred million dollars on a work of art, specifically a sculpture just a bit more than half a century old. That being said, someone just paid 65 million British pounds, almost 105 million dollars for an iconic sculpture by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, “Walking Man I” (“L'Homme Qui Marche I”). This is now the highest price paid at auction for a work of art. (Rumor has it that works by Gustav Klimt, Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko have been bought for more in private sales, but no one knows for sure.)

Let's face it; we are not talking about an artist who has stood the test of time such as Rubens, Velasquez, Caravaggio or even Picasso (the artist whose work previously held the auction record). Yes, Giacometti is widely regarded as one of the great artists of the 20th century; and yes, this is one of his most iconic figures. But 104.3 million dollars? And, this is not even a unique piece! A total of 10 casts of this sculpture were made, some during the life of the artist (including the item just sold, stamped 2/6, and some after his death).

I suppose that as governments print more money, some individuals are deciding they should invest in tangibles such as art and other collectables. And I suppose, if you are going to buy a work of art by a particular artist, buy the best you can.

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French stamp featuring Alberto Giacometti's sculpture “Le Chien”

In the philatelic realm, Alberto Giacometti was honored on a French postage stamp in 1985. Along with human figures he sculpted many of other subjects such as animals, and it is two of these that are on this stamp.

In case anyone wishes to evaluate the sculpture just purchased in order to decide if it is truly worth the price, take a trip to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art just outside Copenhagen, Denmark.It is a pleasant 30 minute train ride from the city, and a remarkable museum founded by one individual, Knud Jensen. There, in a quiet room with a beautiful view of a garden, you will find the exact same sculpture. You can walk up and examine it from one inch away if you please. Incidentally, the Giacometti sculpture that held the previous auction record for this artist was “Big Standing Woman II”, sold in 2008 for $27.4 million. An example of that piece sits across the room from the new auction king. Mr. Jensen had quite an eye for art, and there are a few thousand other masterpieces in his museum.


About the Author
“Hi Everyone: My name is Mark Haimann and I am a lifelong philatelist and art collector. This past October I presented a public program about American artist Alexander Calder and his connections to philately at the National Postal Museum. Following the talk, I was asked if I wanted to blog for the museum about the art world and its connections to philately. How could I say no, so therefore I'm excited to present this first blog post in a continuing series entitled Philatelic Musings On Art.”