UK risks losing £2m modern art sculpture

A sculpture by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £2,083,500.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Femme by Alberto Giacometti to try to save the plaster sculpture for the nation.

Alberto Giacometti is known as one of the most important and sought after sculptors of the last century. His work ‘L’Homme qui Marche I (Walking Man I), for example, fetched a record £65 million at auction in 2010.

Giacometti created Femme in 1928-29 and it was purchased by the abstract painter Winifred Nicholson in the mid-1930s just as the European modern art movement began to influence British art.

Femme is the only pure plaster by the artist known to be in the UK and art experts consider it an important link between British and continental modernism in the 1930s. Giacometti’s works also heavily influenced other notable artists such as Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

This Giacometti sculpture is not only a stunning example of his work but it also heavily influenced some our greatest artists. It is important that Femme is kept in the country so we can better understand and enjoy this pivotal period in modern British art.

The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by the Arts Council.

RCEWA member Richard Calvocoressi said:

This is one of Giacometti’s most simplified female figures – flat, almost abstract, its pure white forms pared down to bare essentials. Works such as this had a huge influence on the development of modern sculpture.

The RCEWA made their recommendation on the grounds that it was so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune, it was of outstanding aesthetic importance; and of outstanding significance for the study of abstraction, Surrealism, the history of plaster sculpture, Giacometti’s links with British modernism and the wider relationship between British and continental European (particularly Parisian) modernism in the 1930s.

The decision on the export licence application for the sculpture will be deferred until 24th May 2016. This may be extended until 24th September 2016 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the sculpture is made at the recommended price of £2,083,500 (net of VAT)

An image of the sculpture can be downloaded here.

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the sculpture should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

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