In advance of its New York modern and contemporary art evening sales next week on October 28, Sotheby’s has secured a valuable Alberto Giacometti sculpture for a private sale titled “In Confidence: A Masterpiece by Alberto Giacometti.” Grande femme I (cast in 1960) will be sold via confidential bidding starting on October 20. The work is valued at $90 million.
Standing at nine feet tall, Grande femme I is from a series of five monumental female figures, each made by the Swiss artist for an outdoor installation project at Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York conceived in 1958. The cast was completed in 1960. The work carries an impressive provenance, having been formerly owned by Chicago collector Robert Mayer, whose American contemporary art holdings sold at Christie’s in 2019. It changed hands again before going to New York art dealer and former Major League Baseball team owner Jeffrey Loria. The seller is Revlon Inc. owner Ron Perelman according to Bloomberg. Perelman acquired it in 1993, and the work was last on the market in 1989, when Mayer sold it at Christie’s New York for $4.9 million.
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The sale of Giacometti’s L’homme au doigt (Pointing man), 1947, at Christie’s New York set the artist’s record in May 2015, when it sold for a staggering $141.3 million, making it the most expensive work ever to sell at auction. It was sold by real estate magnate Sheldon Solow. Before that sale, the biggest sum ever paid for a Giacometti at auction was the $104.3 million put down for L’Homme qui marche I (Walking man), a companion work to the present sculpture, during at Sotheby’s London in February 2010. The sale of his Chariot sculpture generated the third-highest price for the artist when it sold for $100 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2014. In October 2017, the artist’s Grande Femme II (c. 1960) sold for €25 million ($30 million) in a Christie’s Paris sale.
In an interview, Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s vice chairman, global fine arts, said that the sculpture being brought to sale this month, in comparison to the record-setting male figure comparables, is valuable given the female subject’s continuity throughout Giacometti’s work. He began casting female figures in the early 1940s and enlarged them in the late 1950s. “You really can’t get a better example that is indicative of the artist’s intention,” she said.
To sell Grande femme I, Sotheby’s will hold what’s known as a “sealed bid” sale intended to combine the anonymity of a private sale and the competition of public auction. Bidding will run from October 20 to 27. According to Sotheby’s statement, the “sealed bid process represents an open, competitive, and timed private sale.”
All interested buyers are required to submit a confidential bid for the work, which has a minimum starting bid of $90 million. At the sale’s close, Sotheby’s general council and an independent auditor will review the irrevocable bids, and the highest bidder will win the work. No specialists will able to review the bids.
“We conceived of this sale as a unique approach to this special object,” said Lampley, adding that the house was interested in “how to embrace the worldwide appeal of such an iconic work by one of the masters of the 20th century with the privacy clients expect when bidding at this price level.”