The United Kingdom has issued a temporary export ban on a rare chandelier by Alberto Giacometti in the hopes that a local institution can match its £2.4 million ($2.9 million) purchase price, keeping it within British borders.
The lighting fixtures made headlines earlier this year for its incredible provenance: English painter John Craxton first bought the chandelier from an antique in London for a mere $700 and displayed it in his home in Hampstead, London, for 50 years.
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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. arts journal, for two years before it was placed in storage and before mysteriously finding its way to the antique shop on London’s Marylebone Road.
“Giacometti’s masterful exploration of space and use of bronze in this extraordinary chandelier provided a centerpiece for cultural discussion in post-war London as it hung in the offices of the avant-garde magazine Horizon,” Stephen Parkinson, Baron of Whitley Bay and the UK arts and heritage minister, said in a statement. “It is a prime example of sculptors blurring the boundaries between function and art in the decorative arts.”
The chandelier was sold by Christie’s at auction for £2.92 million ( $3.52 million) in February. The price exceeded its high estimate of £2.5 million ($3 million) but failed to surpass a similar piece that sold in 2018 for roughly $9.3 million.
In 2021, the Fondation Giacometti in Paris authenticated the lighting fixture—and even deemed it one of the most significant entries in Giacometti’s design oeuvre, given its suspended ball, which appears elsewhere only in his early sculpture La Boule suspendue (1922).
Sculptures by Giacometti, who died in 1966, are among the most expensive on the market. His 1947 bronze piece, L’Homme au Doigt (The Man with the Finger), sold in 2015 for $141.3 million and remains the priciest sculpture to be bought at public auction.