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    Sale 7618

    The Italian Sale

    20 October 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 118

    Alberto Burri (1915-1995)


    Price Realised  


    Alberto Burri (1915-1995)
    signed 'Burri' (lower left)
    burlap, oil and vinavil on paper laid down on burlap
    10 x 7½in. (25.5 x 18.3cm.)
    Executed in 1953-54

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    Executed in 1953-54, Pagina is an early example of one of Alberto Burri's celebrated Sacchi, created on an exquisite, intimate, jewel-like scale. It was in 1949 that Burri had first included sackcloth in one of his works as an element in its own right, rather than as a support for his paint. He was so struck by the visual, and crucially textural, effect that he created a range of works involving burlap elements. Discussing his choice of material, he explained that the wealth and depth of aesthetic information that he gained through using the material itself could never have been attained through imitation:

    'Sacking... is the compendium of the ideal psychological reasons, of the reasons of form and colour. I could obtain the same shade of brown, but it wouldn't be the same because it wouldn't contain everything I want it to contain... It must respond as a surface, as a material, and as an idea. In sacking I find a perfect match between shade, material and idea that would be impossible to paint' (Alberto Burri, interviewed in 1956, quoted in G. Serafini, Burri: The Measure and the Phenomenon, Milan, 1999, p. 160).

    This hints at the sense of objecthood, of containment, of the lack of need to reference the outside world that is so central to Burri's works and which would influence a host of artists both in Italy and abroad.

    In Pagina, whose very name hints at the book-like scale upon which the work has been created, this sackcloth bears paint and stitching as well as its own original weave like scars, traces of activity and experience, be it on the artist's part or on that of the world itself. The title, and indeed the streak of red that descends from the hole that appears to provide a focal point, a void similar to the Buchi that were so central to his contemporary Lucio Fontana's works, show Burri's attitude trailblazing and influential attitudes to his artistic materials. It also paradoxically introduces a rare hint of near-figuration, as the red below the hole appears to mimic the wounds shown in religious paintings of Christ. Despite his insistence on the lack of referentiality in works such as Pagina, of their complete autonomy as objects in their own right, this notion of a reference to Christ and the Crucifixion is strangely apt. His works themselves combined notions of destruction and healing, reflecting his own experiences of the Second World War as an Italian soldier with medical training, and indeed the greater experiences of the war-ravaged Italy to which he returned. The burlap of Pagina shows the traces of acts of destruction, but also of stitching, of reconstruction, hinting at his own concept of some form of secular resurrection, an optimism rendered in a deliberately tattered aesthetic appropriate to the Post-War age of existential angst.

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    Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini (ed.), Burri, Contributi al catalogo sistematico, Città di Castello 1990, no. 355 (illustrated, p. 91). M. Bouisset, Arte Povera, Paris 1994 (illustrated in colour, p. 36).


    Pesaro, Palazzo Ducale, Burri; Disegni, tempere e grafica 1946-1976, September-November 1976 (illustrated, p. 10).