2. The encounter with the arts of Africa and Oceania
Giacometti’s work shows the influence of African and Oceanian sculpture. When the young artist developed an interest in African art in 1926, it was no longer a novelty for the modern artists of the previous generation (Picasso, Derain); it had even become popularized to the point of becoming decorative.
The two works which first brought Giacometti to the attention of the public were the Spoon Woman and The Couple, both shown in 1927 at the Salon des Tuileries in Paris, and both illustrating the upheaval created in the young artist by that cultural encounter. In 1928, Giacometti embarked on a series of women and flat heads, whose novel quality earned him acclaim in 1929, and resulted in his first contract with the Pierre Loeb gallery, which exhibited the Surrealists. In those years, Giacometti was friends with Carl Einstein, author of the seminal book on African sculpture, Negerplastik (1915) and Michel Leiris, who would become a specialist in Dogon art. Several later works, including some outstanding painted plasters and one or two paintings, show how non-western art had a lasting influence on his output. The artist moved away from naturalist and academic representation, in favour of a totemic and at times wild vision of the figure, filled with a magical power.