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Alberto Giacometti

Posthumous Giacometti sculptures sold at Gagosian

Pieces represent first $10m in a probable $54m deal

Posthumous Giacometti sculptures from the Annette and Alberto Giacometti Foundation, have been sold in London by the Gagosian Gallery despite assurances that any commercialisations would be “long term”. The sales, of posthumous bronzes worth at least $10m, are the first to be made under a deal agreed between the foundation and Gagosian, which is believed to be worth around $54m. The pieces are included in Living, Looking, Making, a show of 11 sculptures by Giacometti and works by Fontana, Twombly and Serra (until 19 May).

When the Giacometti/Gagosian agreement was announced at the end of 2006, it drew criticism from other dealers, particularly because many felt it would not have been the artist’s wish to see posthumous works cast. Dealers were also worried that new casts would affect the market for existing works, by extending editions that were thought to be finished.

At the time PaceWildenstein director Arne Glimcher said: “[Alberto] and Diego [his brother] approved all of the patinas. The patina and sculpture are inextricable, so posthumous casts are morally illegitimate.”

The deal was also criticised by the competing Association Alberto and Annette Giacometti, which is currently producing a catalogue raisonné, a rival to the one being produced by the foundation. Mary Lisa Palmer, director of the association, told The Art Newspaper: “Our reaction is the same now as it was when the deal was announced, we still feel that Giacometti doesn’t need to be promoted and the foundation is not the one [his widow] Annette wanted. But we’re not really surprised at these sales.”

At the time John Good, a Gagosian director in New York, said: “We are not in a hurry, this is a long term project.” Véronique Wiesinger, director of the foundation, said: “It is part of the agreement with Larry [Gagosian] that we will give priority to museums.”

Most of the pieces in the London show come from the foundation and were sold over the opening days of the exhibition. Femme Debout, around 1961 (5/8), sold before the show opened for a price between €700,000 and €800,000 ($1.4m and $1.6m). A Petit Buste sur Colonne, 1951-52, an artist’s proof cast in 1978, was, according to an email from Mr Good and the foundation, “reserved for sale to museums only”, although a saleswoman at the gallery earlier said that a private sale could also be possible. A Buste d’Homme, 1956, cast in 2006 and one of eight was priced at €850,000 ($1.7m); the email said only one cast of each work on display was available, and “many” were not for sale. The Buste d’Homme was not cast specifically for the Gagosian show, the same email said, adding that “some [of the pieces from the foundation] were sold to a major institution but we are letting them make the announcement which should come out shortly”.

The gallery also said three busts, Lothar I, II and III came from private collections and were priced at €8m ($10.4m). All were sold to a single buyer.