Sometimes a hunch pays off, and when English painter John Craxton recognized a work of genius for sale at London The antique shop, pretty much made the right call.
Craxton parted with £250 for an unusual chandelier which he suspected was by the great sculptor Alberto GiacometI. Now this chandelier, made in the late 1940s, may be sold at Christie’s in a few weeks for 7 million pounds sterling. The revered Swiss artist’s masterpieces are the most expensive sculptures to buy at auction, and his work regularly breaks records in the selling room.
The chandelier is estimated to be priced at £1.5m – £2.5m (plus buyer’s premium), but Michelle McMullan at Christie’s understands that this is the conservative basis for such a ‘prestige’ chandelier which is ‘extremely rare’. “The market for Alberto and his brother Diego Giacometti’s designs has never been stronger, with the highest price for a Giacometti chandelier at auction coming in at £7,602,400 in 2018 for a bronze from 1949,” she said.
When Craxton first discovered the unique light installation in a shop on Marylebone Road in the 1960s, he thought it had been commissioned by his late friend, art collector Peter Watson. Confident about buying it, Craxton. who passed away in 2009 He hung it in his home in Hampstead, North London, for 50 years, to reflect the piece’s exceptional place in cultural history.
Aside from its aesthetic value, the chandelier graced the foyer of the Bloomsbury offices horizon The magazine, the now defunct Cultural Review, which was set up by Watson and Cyril Connolly in 1939 and has gone on to publish celebrated works by WH Auden, George Orwell, E.M. Forster and Dylan Thomas.
Watson, who inherited a family fortune, built an important collection of modern and surrealist artwork while living in Paris. When he returned to London during the Second World War, he turned to investing in British talent, such as Henry Moore, Lucian Freud and Craxton. He commissioned the chandelier from Giacometti during a trip back to Italy Europe In 1946 or 1947.
In 2015, the authenticity of the chandelier was questioned in Britain, and the Craxton Memorial Trust undertook a lengthy process to establish its provenance. London insurance broker Aston Lark was responsible for getting the light safely to the Fondation Giacometti in Paris for verification in December 2021.
Julie Webb, the broker’s director of private clients, said: “It was a huge security operation to get the chandelier to and from Paris but it was all worth the effort – Chandelier by Peter Watson It is now regarded as among the most important hanging sculptures by Alberto Giacometti ever made because it features a hanging sphere, which has only in common with his famous surrealist sculpture No pee Suspension. “
John Craxton biographer Ian Collins, who is also a trustee of the Craxton estate, said: “ Chandelier by Peter Watson It presents the different streams of creative thinking that occupied Giacometti during this productive period.
Posted in Bloomsbury’s offices horizon in 1949, but the magazine closed the following year. It was removed from the premises and placed in storage, though we do not know how it found its way to Denton’s antique shop in Marylebone Road. It is probable that, together with other artworks from the offices, Watson presented them to Cyril Connolly, but the details may always remain obscure.”
Art appraiser James Glennie, of art & Antiques Appraisals, worked with the Aston Lark and Craxton Memorial Trust throughout the appraisal and validation process and confirmed how exciting the prospect of bidding on the chandelier is now. “Alberto only created about half a dozen chandeliers,” he said, “but none of them had such a backstory, and so Chandelier by Peter Watson It should be seen more as a statue than as a light.”