Antique stores may offer a trove of cheap treasures for anyone with a keen eye but they rarely turn up objects quite so undervalued as a rare chandelier by Alberto Giacometti, which caught the eye of British painter John Craxton through a shop window in the 1960s. Recognizing the artist’s distinctive style, he snapped the collectible up for just £250 ($700).
Some six decades later, the work has been sold at a mammoth mark up, fetching £2.4 million ($2.9 million) at Christie’s 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale earlier today. Bidding got off to a slow start and remained sporadic and uncertain, with the gavel very nearly coming down for £2.2 million ($2.6 million). In the end, after about two-and-a-half minutes, the work was won by a phone bidder for a final hammer price just short of its high estimate of £2.5 million ($3 million).
The one-of-a-kind multitiered fixture with its hanging bauble easily evinces Giacometti’s distinctive eye. Though he made his name as a sculptor, Giacometti did not discriminate between fine art and decorative design, producing a wide range of furniture and other functional objects, much like his equally creative but lesser-known younger brother Diego.
Making Craxton’s chance encounter with the chandelier even more amazing is the fact that he recognized it as a special commission made by his late friend Peter Watson, an art collector with a particular passion for Surrealism. Watson had intended it for the offices of the literary magazine , where he was a founding editor, and the chandelier was passed on to the one of his cofounders Cyril Connolly after his death in 1956. It is not known how it ended up as an anonymous light fixture in a run-of-the-mill antiques shop on London’s Marylebone Road.
Once safely in the hands of Craxton, the chandelier became a centerpiece of the music room at his private home in Hampstead, London. It has been held by the artist’s estate since his death in 2009 and, although he himself never had any doubt of its provenance, it was sent to the Fondation Giacometti in Paris for authentication in 2015.
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