January 8, 2010 / 3:32 PM / 8 years ago

Life-size Giacometti bronze goes under the hammer

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Sotheby's auction house said on Friday it plans to sell one of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti's rare, life-sized bronzes next month.

The February 3 sale of "L'Homme qui marche I" will mark the first time a Giacometti figure of a walking man of this size has come to auction in over 20 years, Sotheby's said.

It has given the work -- cast in 1961 -- an estimated sale price of over 12 million pounds ($19 million). The record for a Giacometti bronze was set at $27.4 million in May 2008 for a life-sized sculpture of a woman entitled "Grande femme debout II."

The auction firm said the bronze was being sold by German banking firm Commerzbank AG, which acquired it when it took over Dresdner Bank in 2009. Dresdner acquired the sculpture in 1980.

"We are delighted to have the rare opportunity to offer a monumental and lifetime cast of this iconic work," Co-Chairman of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art Department Worldwide Helena Newman said in a statement.

The work will be one of the centerpieces of Sotheby's forthcoming Evening sale of Impressionist & Modern Art.

"We obtained a well-known corporate collection of modern and contemporary art when we acquired Dresdner Bank," Commerzbank CEO Martin Blessing said.

"We have now decided to allocate outstanding artworks to German museums and have selected one of the most valuable works in the collection for sale in London in February."

L'Homme qui marche I was executed at the high point of Giacometti's mature period.

It originated as part of a public project for which Giacometti was commissioned for the Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York.

In 1956, a committee of curators and major figures from principal public museums in New York and Boston chose him over Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi for the scheme, which was planned as the first modernist outdoor project in the city's financial district.

In preparation for the project, Giacometti executed several sculptures, only a few of which remain today, among them L'Homme qui marche I and II.

Evidently pleased with the versions of the walking man he had produced for the purpose, Giacometti had them cast in bronze. A cast of L'Homme qui marche I was subsequently exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1962.

Editing by Steve Addison

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