Picasso-Giacometti, on show at Qatar Museums’ Fire Station in Doha, is a stunning exhibition that charts a forgotten friendship between two artistic visionaries

Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso are among the most famous artists of the 20th century, but the relationship between them has gone largely unremarked until recently. In the exhibition Picasso-Giacometti, on show at Qatar Museums’ Fire Station in Doha until May 21, the 20-year friendship between two visionaries is explored in fascinating detail.
Curated by Catherine Grenier, director and curator of Fondation Giacometti, the exhibition features more than 120 works drawn from the collections of the Musée National Picasso and the Fondation Giacometti in Paris, as well as pieces on loan from private collectors. The works on show include paintings, sculptures, sketches and photographs, providing a comprehensive overview of decades of innovation and experimentation.

The two artists had a lot in common, in spite of their 20-year age gap, explains Grenier. Both were the sons of painters, both were trained by their fathers and both exhibited exceptional talent at a very young age. Both were also encouraged not to imitate artists of the past but to create a new language of their own. During their friendship, which lasted from the 1930s into the 1950s, the two men spent many hours together discussing their ideas about modern at.

The show at Fire Station, which is the result of two years of research, provides a valuable introduction to each artist’s individual oeuvre, while casting light on their previously unremarked artistic relationship. The show marks the first time the two artists’ work is being exhibited in the Middle East, and will be the only stop for the exhibition after its run in Paris, where it was on show at the Musée National Picasso from October 4 to February 5.

“We were very interested by the idea of showing Giacometti and Picasso outside of the Western countries to a new public, as this is part of our agenda in the Fondation Giacometti,” Grenier explain to Selections. “In the last two years we have put together shows of Giacometti in Istanbul, in Shanghai and in Morocco, and coming to Doha was very interesting for us, because for several years now Doha has shown that there is an interest here for art… This space particularly I liked very much when I visited it, because there are artists’ residences, so there is life here.”

The exhibition is divided into six sections, charting different aspects of each artist’s production, from the development of their work as young artists through to their modernist creations. The scenography highlights the correspondences between their works, as well as demonstrating the influence of the surrealist movement on both artists and their subsequent return to realism during the post-war period.

The stunning show is due to be followed by another dialogue exhibition at the Beyeler Foundation in 2018, showing work by Giacometti and Francis Bacon. “It should be very interesting,” says Grenier. “They were not close friends, like Picasso and Giacometti, but they met and they had a lot of respect for each other. And of course they were both representative of that realist movement at the time of abstraction and it’s interesting to compare them.”

By Irene McConnell