Alberto Giacometti in His Studio, 1951. Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006). Silver print on paper; 40.8x 40.8 cm. Archives, Fondation Giacometti.© Courtesy of and copyright The GordonParks Foundation

If you don’t know artist Alberto Giacometti, it’s time. And if you do, it’s time to know him better. Art historians consider him one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century.
This spring, 60 of his works are at “Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure” in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibit was co-organized by the museum and Fondation Giacometti. It debuted in Cleveland and will be here until June 12. Then, It travels to the Seattle Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.
The booklet you’re handed when entering the exhibit is a valuable guide to understanding Giacometti’s life and works. You’ll learn that Giacometti (1901-1966) grew up in a small Swiss village near the Italian border. His father Giovanni was a post-Impressionist painter. Giacometti learned painting before he moved to Paris to study sculpture. The booklet details his early period obsessed with drawing and sculpting heads and how, over time, he expanded to sculptural interpretations of the human figure.
The exhibit starts with early-career busts not too far removed from realism, then figures get thinner and thinner as time passed. They culminate in two dramatic, signature pieces, Tall Woman IV and Walking Man I.
Art experts claim the emaciated, mostly bronze, figures capture the zeitgeist as it relates to existential questions about the nature of the human condition. To many, Giacometti’s thin figures were imbued with feelings of alienation, fear, insignificance, and uncertainty. They embodied the psychological complexities of the Cold War era that followed in the wake of World War II.
“The exhibition surveys Giacometti’s creative process, from his experimentation with plinths to his exploration of the space between the object and the viewer to his grappling with the tension between naturalism and abstraction,” says William M. Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art
William Robinson, the senior curator of modern art, says, “This exhibition explores his development of distinctive figures that speak to the anxieties of the modern age. The works are presented in twelve thematic sections that take visitors through Giacometti’s intense focus on the human figure and the development of his signature style.”
Free docent-guided tours are available daily at 11:15 a.m. Exhibition tickets are required.