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Giacometti chandelier bought for $300 fetches over $3.5 million at auction

<i>Paul Almasy/Corbis/Getty Images</i><br/>Alberto Giacometti is best known for sculptures of a human figure in plaster or bronze.
Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Paul Almasy/Corbis/Getty Images
Alberto Giacometti is best known for sculptures of a human figure in plaster or bronze.

Hafsa Khalil, CNN

A chandelier bought for just £250 ($300) from a London antique store has sold for more than 11,000 times that amount, fetching £2.92 million ($3.5 million) at a Christie’s auction in London on Tuesday.

In 1960, British painter John Craxton was passing by the store when he recognized the unique Alberto Giacometti light fixture as a piece once owned by his late friend and benefactor Peter Watson, a collector and patron of the arts.

Swiss sculptor and painter Giacometti is best known for his elongated figure sculptures, such as “L’homme au doigt” and “L’homme qui marche I,” some of the most expensive sculptures ever to sell at auction. Influenced by Surrealism, he created many unique pieces that spoke his “sculptural language,” including this chandelier. He died in 1966, aged 64.

The bronze with golden-brown patina masterpiece is 53 inches tall and 60 inches wide, and had been estimated to sell for between £2.5 million and £3.5 million ($3 million to $4.2 million). In 2018, a different Giacometti chandelier sold for more than $9 million.

According to an auction catalog sent to CNN by Christie’s prior to the sale, Watson commissioned his chandelier during a trip to Paris — where Giacometti lived and worked — circa 1946 or 1947. It was destined for the office of the famed London literary and arts magazine Horizon, which Watson co-founded. The chandelier hung in the office until the magazine’s closure in 1950, when it was packed away into storage.

A decade later, and after Watson’s death, Craxton spotted the chandelier in the antique shop, bought it and hung it in the music room of his home in Hampstead, north London. Craxton died in 2009 and the chandelier was put on sale by his estate.

Michelle McMullan, Christie’s senior specialist and head of the 20th-century evening sales, called the chandelier a “sculpture in its own right.”

Speaking to CNN in January, McMullan said it was a blend of Giacometti’s works and styles, unlike anything else she has seen from the sculptor, which is one of the ways in which the piece is unique.

“I just think it’s a great combination of Giacometti’s sculptural language, combined with the refinement of his works in design,” she said.

Another Giacometti work, a 1956 bronze sculpture titled “Femme debout,” also went under the hammer at Tuesday’s auction, fetching £2.56 million ($3 million).

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