A celebrated group of plaster sculptures will be brought together for the first time since they were made in 1956 for Tate Modern’s major Giacometti retrospective. All six Women of Venice plaster works created for the 1956 Venice Biennale will be reunited for the first time in 60 years. They will be shown alongside two further plaster sculptures from this series, which Giacometti unveiled at the Kunsthalle Berne that same year. The works have been specially restored and reassembled for Tate Modern’s exhibition by the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Paris. It will offer a once in the lifetime opportunity to see this important group of fragile works as the artist originally intended.

Giacometti was chosen to represent France at the 1956 Venice Biennale. He showed a group of newly made plaster sculptures for the exhibition, all of which depict an elongated standing female nude. These works represent a crucial stage in Giacometti’s artistic development and were the result of the study of his wife Annette, one of his most important models. The sculptures can be seen as a culmination of the artist’s lifelong experimentations to depict the reality of the human form.

While Giacometti is best known for his bronze figures, Tate Modern will reposition him as an artist with a far wider interest in materials and textures, especially plaster, clay and paint. Over the course of about three weeks, Giacometti moulded each of the Women of Venice in clay before casting them in plaster and reworking them with a knife to further accentuate their surface. The elasticity and malleability of these materials allowed him to work in an inventive way. Giacometti also embellished the surface of several works in the series with red and black paint, an important element of his practice that can only be experienced by seeing the original plaster sculptures.

Thanks to unparalleled access to the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti’s extraordinary collection and archive, Tate Modern has been able to bring together these rarely seen works. The extensive restoration project carried out by the Fondation will offer visitors a new perspective on Giacometti’s working methods. The works have been returned to their original state showing the paintwork and penknife marks not visible on the later bronze casts. The exhibition will also include other important plaster sculptures, drawings and sketch books that have never been shown before, including The Nose c.1947-9, Medium Figure III 1948-9 and Woman Leoni 1947-58.

Alberto Giacometti will be open at Tate Modern from 10 May to 10 October 2017, supported by Maryam and Edward Eisler with additional support from the Alberto Giacometti Exhibition Supporters Circle, Tate Patrons, Tate Americas Foundation and Tate Members. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern and Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Paris.