• Post-War and Contemporary Art  auction at Christies

    Sale 7977

    Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    28 June 2011, London, King Street

  • Lot 19

    Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)

    Concetto spaziale, Attese

    Price Realised  

    Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
    Concetto spaziale, Attese
    signed twice, titled and inscribed 'l. Fontana l. Fontana 'Concetto Spaziale' ATTESA era una bellissima Triennale. Ho rifatto due volte la firma' (on the reverse)
    waterpaint on canvas
    57½ x 44 7/8in. (146 x 114cm.)
    Executed in 1966


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    'At the Venice Biennale in 1966 Fontana proposed a room in which were gathered together and disposed according to a particular architectural arrangement some exceedingly pure single tagli in a room which was also entirely white and in which the cuts were the only superficial "cracks" bearing an evident revealing conceptual and metaphysical significance (66 T 35...). White represented, as we know, for Fontana the "purest, least complicated, most understandable colour," that which most immediately struck the note of "pure simplicity," "pure philosophy," "spatial philosophy," "cosmic philosophy" to which Fontana more than ever aspired during the last years of his life'
    (J. van der Marck & E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Vol. I, Brussels, 1974, p. 137).

    Executed on a rare large-scale, Lucio Fontana's Concetto spaziale, Attese is an exquisite white monochrome tagli, penetrated with three precise, vertical slashes. These cuts, each over a metre long, immortalise the physical act of their creation, Fontana using the full length of his arm and force of his gesture to score through the expansive canvas. Fontana created Concetto spaziale, Attese in 1966, and it was shown the same year as part of a grand installation in the Italian pavilion at the XXXIII Venice Biennale. This installation, entitled the Ambiente Spaziale showcased Fontana taking his iconic gesture of the cut canvas to a new level of ambition. Created in collaboration with the architect Carlo Scarpa, Fontana envisaged a white, luminous maze, filled with examples of his Tagli, the iconic cuts for which he is perhaps best known, acting as a conceptual counterpoint to the gilded oeuvre presented at the Venice Biennale in 1961. As Fontana explained to Pierre Restany: 'I wanted to create a "spatial environment", by which I mean an environmental structure, a preliminary journey in which the "slits" would be as if in a labyrinth containing blanks of the same shape and colour but with one single laceration' (Fontana, quoted in S. Whitfield, Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., London, 1999, p. 200). Following Fontana's acclaimed installation at the Biennale, he won the International Grand Prize for Painting, marking the height of his practice. Received only two years before his death, it paid tribute to Fontana's tireless and continuing ambition to shape the contemporary artistic landscape, as well as a valedictory plaudit for his enduring artistic legacy. Of this extraordinary collection of seven white paintings, two are now housed in museums: one in the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart and one in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

    Fontana completed Concetto Spaziale, Attese, in a series of premeditated iterations. Exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1966, the work first appeared with 'one single laceration' as intimated by its inscription, Attesa on the reverse. It constituted an integral part of the white architectural installation, representing one of almost identical, pure single-cuts 'inserted in box-like confessionals to accentuate their revelatory meaning' (J. van der Marck & E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Vol. I, Brussels, 1974, p. 141). Assembled together the tagli appeared almost monastic in their formal and abstract purity. It was this kind of transformative aesthetic that Fontana would later recreate for Documenta IV in Kassel in 1968, where he positioned a large, revelatory slash as the centre of a totally white room. As Fontana would later comment to Giorgio Bocca, in Venice '[I succeeded] in giving the spectator who looks at the painting an impression of spatial calm, of cosmic rigour, of serenity in infinity' (L. Fontana, quoted in E. Crispolti (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan, 2006, p. 105). This was an atmosphere that the artist's friend and fellow artist Yves Klein had also engendered in his 'Epoca Blu' at the Gallery Apollinaire, Milan, in January 1957. Klein's exhibition featured eleven identical monochrome, International Klein Blue canvases attached to rods twenty centimetres away from the walls of the gallery. This installation created a powerful optical effect, mediating a new experience of space.
    Following the Biennale, Fontana in a rare, expressive act added two further balancing cuts to either side of his central laceration. In doing so, he intensified his concept, creating three shards of space instead of one. These multiple tagli are the supreme, elegant expressions of Fontana's Spatial aesthetic and beliefs, each serial penetration thrown into dramatic relief by the radiant white of the canvas. It is in this striking contrast, between the white of the surface and the darkness of the void, that Fontana's Spatial concept finds its best expression. In Concetto Spaziale, Attese, we are entering the realm of the immaterial, that dimension whole-heartedly embraced by Yves Klein in his exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery in April 1958. Klein conceived of an evacuated space, perfectly white in homage to the Void - a concept that resonated with Fontana's minimalist language of the monochrome tagli.

    Concetto spaziale, Attese is a work that transcends the canvas and the formal qualities of painting. In creating the apparently simple gesture of the precise cut on canvas, Fontana aspired to a radical avant-garde art, responding to the new post-Galilean age of quantum physics and international space travel. Fontana had been particularly excited by events in the years preceding the Venice Biennale when Edward H. White II, an astronaut on Gemini 4, had become the first man to perform a spacewalk. He wrote to Enrico Crispolti on the occasion, underling the prescience of his own Spatial Art: 'I am pleased with man's "little trip" in space, between us and the non-figurative "imaginists", or half figurative and the other half what the client wants, etc. etc. now the break is also physical, they are on earth and we are in space, ca va? Are you with us?' (Fontana, letter to E. Crispolti, 12 April 1964, in quoted in ibid., p. 245). KA

    Provenance

    Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Rome.
    Paul Haim & Co., Paris.
    Galleria Seno, Milan.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1980.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION


    Literature

    E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 66 T 40 (illustrated, p. 183).
    E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 66 T 40 (illustrated, p. 637).
    Bocola, 2001, no. 773 (illustrated in colour, pp. 121, 128 and 166).
    E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 66 T 40 (illustrated, p. 833).


    Exhibited

    Venice, XXXIII Biennale Internazionale dell'Arte, 1966.
    Milan, Galleria Seno, Fontana, 1973, no. 12 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
    Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Lucio Fontana: Retrospektive, 1996-97 (illustrated in colour, p. 195). This exhibition later travelled to Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig.