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Degas' horse


Alberto Giacometti's head of Diego
Carl Djerassi Scientist
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In my collecting phase at that time it was mostly in Paris. Galerie Maeght, which is one of the important Picasso... Giacometti dealers, and Giacometti was one of my absolute favourites, and there you had the example, the really prime example of a sculptor and painter. In fact, I bought an important oil, a Giacometti oil, from Berggruen, and I bought quite a number of... a number of bronzes from Galerie Maeght. And the Maeght one was again an example, where it was at an exhibition, and they had to ship it to me, to Stanford. And I remember being at Stanford during the day, and a lecture was given that evening about Giacometti, by Peter Selz. Peter Selz was at one time the chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York... the author of a monograph on Giacometti. A very sophisticated and also very arrogant... and... very arrogant person... snobbish. And he gave this... so... and I wanted to go to that lecture, which was the usual five or six o’clock in the evening lecture, and I knew, of course, the people in the art department very well, and the chairman of the art department organised for this. He knew that I was a collector of Giacometti. Actually, so did Peter Selz, and he told me and I said, 'Yes, I'll come to it'.

Literally, on that day the Giacometti had arrived in my office. Now, that was one of the famous Diego Bronzes... Diego's face. These are now, that size, and of course, even if you’ve never heard of Giacometti you’d immediately recognise this as a Giacometti, it’s just one of the classical ones. And I was just absolutely tickled. Of course, I had to open it. Well, then I stuck it in my briefcase, because you don’t have to pack these up, it can’t break, or anything else, and I had only paper in my briefcase... it was still in the days of briefcase. So I decided to take it home inside my briefcase, but I first went to that lecture. So there I was sitting at the lecture, with a briefcase in which there was a Giacometti. Well, I hadn’t intended to show this to anyone, and he gives this lecture, and suddenly he shows a slide of my Giacometti, and I thought, you know, I should probably say, oh, and by the way, I happen to have that here, but I thought, no, they would all think I did it for effect, so of course I didn’t do this. But at the end of the lecture, I go, and there were a lot of people talking to him, and I go to the chairman of the department, whom I knew very well, and said... and I opened the briefcase and I said, 'Look into this', and he just looked in, and he nearly fell over and said, 'My God, why didn’t you say that?' I said, 'I can’t do that, it’s embarrassing', and he said, 'All right, look, we have a reception right now. Go quickly there ahead of time, and just put it on the table, and... and say nothing', you know. And it was really... so he came in and he really just headed straight for that, and it was really, actually very funny.

Austrian-American Carl Djerassi (1923-2015) was best known for his work on the synthesis of the steroid cortisone and then of a progesterone derivative that was the basis of the first contraceptive pill. He wrote a number of books, plays and poems, in the process inventing a new genre, 'science-in-fiction', illustrated by the novel 'Cantor's Dilemma' which explores ethics in science.

Listeners: Tamara Tracz

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Galerie Maeght, Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, Diego Bronzes, Peter Selz, Alberto Giacometti, Diego Giacometti, Heinz Berggruen

Duration: 3 minutes, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008