The Erotic Object: Surrealist Sculpture from the Collection
June 24, 2009–January 4, 2010
Giacometti originally intended Woman with Her Throat Cut to rest directly on the floor, part of the "real" world, distanced from the lofty realm of art. A hybrid animal, insect, and human, the female figure's body appears to be simultaneously in the throes of sexual ecstasy and in the spasms of death—embodying the phrase petite mort (little death), a French term for orgasm. The sexual drama and violence in this work is a powerfully discomfiting example of the misogynistic imagery frequently present in Surrealism.
Alberto Giacometti, October 11, 2002–January 8, 2003
Curator Emeritus, Carolyn Lanchner: When Giacometti made Woman with Her Throat Cut in 1932, he did something extraordinary. He laid this Surrealist sculpture directly on the floor without a base or pedestal. That changed the relationship of the viewer to the object, distancing it from the lofty realm of art and thrusting it into the real world.
What exactly does it represent? The title says "woman" but the shape also suggests an insect, or a crab. The title identifies it as a victim, yet it has a palpably menacing air. The oblong phallus-like object is moveable and Giacometti preferred it to be displayed as it is here, in the leaf-like hand, implying that the violent encounter had ended badly for the attacker as well as the victim.
The Surrealists delighted in public confessions. In that spirit, Giacometti recounted his youthful fantasies of sexual aggression.
Artist, Alberto Giacometti (read by actor): I thought that between a man and a woman there could be only incompatibility, war, violence. The woman would not submit till bodily resistance was exhausted; the man raped her.
Part woman, part crustacean, and part insect, Woman with Her Throat Cut is rigorously horizontal. Intended by the artist to be placed on the floor without a base, it suggests the violent image of a woman raped and murdered.