Hiroshi Sugimoto
Pins, 2022 Rideau en tissu  345,4 x 727,2 cm
© Collection Odawara Art Foundation © Hiroshi Sugimoto. Courtesy of the Odawara Art Foundation 

 Alberto Giacometti and Hiroshi Sugimoto met in New York, in 2013. More exactly, Sugimoto's first encounter with Giacometti’s work took place at MoMA. The modern art museum had invited Sugimoto to photograph its masterpieces in the museum’s sculpture garden. Tall Woman III was the first work by Alberto Giacometti which captured the artist’s attention. 


Hiroshi Sugimoto Past Presence 070, Tall Figure III,  Alberto Giacometti, 2016. Tirage gélatino-argentique 93,6×75 cm Fondation Giacometti. Photo : © Hiroshi Sugimoto, œuvre représentée © Estate of Alberto Giacometti / ADAGP 2024 

The exhibition at the Institut Giacometti is an extension of that first encounter. Sugimoto photographed Tall Woman III using his blurry technique which he had first experimented with with modern architecture. Blurriness was not an accident or a problem with lens aperture. Sugimoto was simply trying to capture the idea of the building just as it was forming in the head of its creator. What few people know is that Sugimoto is also a great admirer of the work of Marcel Duchamp. “I am a ‘duchampien’,” he once proclaimed. 

Hiroshi Sugimoto Past Presence 071, L’Homme qui Marche II, Alberto Giacometti, 2016 Tirage gélatino-argentique 93,6×75 cm  Fondation Giacometti    Photo : © Hiroshi Sugimoto,œuvre représentée © Estate of Alberto Giacometti / ADAGP 2024 

For Giacometti, Sugimoto used the same technique. But he also photographed Tall Woman twice: once in broad daylight and once at dusk. It echoes the concept of Noh theater which Sugimoto loves: in Noh theater, the dead and the living meet. At the Institut Giacometti, which also houses the sculptor’s studio as it was when he passed away, Sugimoto has built a Noh stage on which he has set five sculptures of Giacometti’s with a traditional Noh curtain backdrop created by the 16th Century painter Tosa Mitsunobu. He has positioned at the front of the stage two life-sized sculptures which look like symbols of human existence: Tall Woman and Walking Man I

The exhibition also presents a series of Polaroid negatives, self-portraits and portraits of relatives and friends in the spirit of the dead and the living meeting. There are also ballpoint pen drawings on anything Giacometti could get his hands on: newspaper, bits of paper napkins, envelopes, invitations. 

Hiroshi Sugimoto sees Giacometti’s sculptures as apparitions and their fragility is connecting them to the idea of death. Giacometti’s meeting in 1955 with Japanese philosopher Isaku Yanaihara had a deep impact on his way of looking to represent the human figure. 

In one of the rooms, Sugimoto is presenting one of his seascapes, Baltic Sea, Rugen, 1996, behind Giacometti’s Tall Woman IV. For the artist, the vision of the sea from a train at age 6, on his way from Amiti to Tokyo, suddenly gave him an acute sense of his individual existence. “My first conscious memory began there,” he said. Tall Woman IV, which had been commissioned by Chase Manhattan Bank, in New York, in 1958, is looking at the seascape, maybe gaining a sense of its own eternity. It’s a deeply meditative exhibition leading us to contemplate our own life and mortality. A short Zen moment in the chaos of the world.

Jean-Sébastien Stehli  

Alberto Giacometti / Hiroshi Sugimoto. En Scène / Staged. Institut Giacometti. institut-giacometti.fr. Until June 23, 2024.


Homme qui marche I, 1960  Bronze 180,5×27×97 cm Fondation Giacometti  © Succession Giacometti 


Alberto Giacometti Femme assise, 1956 Bronze 51,3×15,6×23,7 cm Fondation Giacometti © Succession Alberto Giacometti  

April 30, 2024 — Jean Sebastien Stehli