"Worthless" Sculpture on ‘Fake or Fortune’ Sells for £500,000

Sometimes the experts get it wrong. A Giacometti sculpture deemed "worthless" on BBC’s ‘Fake or Fortune’ sells for half a million.

Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould in BBC’s ‘Fake or Fortune’. Photo: Netflix
Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould in BBC’s ‘Fake or Fortune’. Photo: Netflix

Last autumn, a broken sculpture on BBC’s Fake or Fortune, was deemed "worthless" by host Fiona Bruce, after Bruce and her colleague Philip Mould couldn’t come to a conclusion about the work’s origins. However, it was later proved a genuine work by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, and subsequently sold in February 2019 for £500,000 at the ‘Art of the Surreal’ sale at Christie’s in London. 

“We’ve never tackled sculpture before and it’s been astonishingly hard to find out information about Giacometti gazing heads and the plaster versions in particular,” host Fiona Bruce said during the episode. “Unfortunately though, the damage [this] piece has sustained might be too great. It may no longer be possible to accept it as a genuine work.”

The episode ended with Bruce and Mould sending the sculpture to the Giacometti Committee in Paris for further review. In an updated and re-aired version of the episode, it was revealed that layers of household paint were removed from the sculpture to uncover Giacometti’s signature and confirm its authenticity. 

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The white square plaster sculpture, titled Tête qui regarde (Gazing Head), was originally brought to Fake or Fortune by Clare Clark-Hall, whose grandmother, according to The Telegraph, became friends with Giacometti’s mistress while studying in Paris in the 1930s. She reportedly took possession of the sculpture at the time. In the 1960s, a family cat knocked the work off a mantle, causing it to crack. Clark-Hall’s grandfather repaired it with cheap spackling paste and household paint. It was these layers that were removed by professional cleaners to reveal the inscription on the bottom: “Alberto Giacometti 1928”.

In a statement to The Telegraph, Mould said, “Even though we have quite long lead times, we still work to a television deadline on Fake or Fortune and the art world does not always observe the same pace. This one took longer and more consideration than most. But it was worth waiting for.”

Find more Alberto Giacometti here

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