• Press release
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  • Milan
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  • For immediate release
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  • 3 April 2017

PRESS RELEASE: The Best of 20th Century Italian Art Milan Modern and Contemporary Auction: 27 & 28 April 2017 and Christie’s Touring Highlights in Italy

Milan – Christie's is pleased to present the annual Milan Modern and Contemporary auction on 27 and 28 April. An essential date in the auction calendar, the Milan Modern and Contemporary sale provides an opportunity for international collectors to acquire the best of 20th century Italian art. This year's sale will feature works by the most acclaimed Italian artists, including Lucio Fontana, Enrico Castellani, Alberto Burri and Fausto Melotti, alongside a special section showcasing 1960s Italian Pop Art with key names such as Tano Festa, Giosetta Fioroni, Franco Angeli, Mimmo Rotella and Mario Schifano. As Miart confirms Milan as a cultural hub during this period, we are also pleased to be showcasing international highlights such as key jewellery highlights from our upcoming sale in Geneva on 17 May 2017.

Renato Pennisi, Director and Senior Specialist, Head of Sale, Christie's Italy: "This season, our curated auction will offer a wide range of works of art, from Spatialism to the Pop art movement, passing through rediscovered masterpieces by Castellani, Uncini, Leoncillo, and Licini. We are pleased to present such a great variety of 20th century Italian art movements in Milan, as this city continues to be a key location to buy the very best of Italian Art”.


Collectors and enthusiasts of Lucio Fontana’s work will be presented with a strong group of works by the artist, including key pieces from the Concetto Spaziale series. The four slashes in the pure white canvas of Concetto spaziale, Attese (1963-64) captures Fontana’s pioneering concept of Spatialism with a pristine order and elegance (estimate: €500,000-700,000). In 1966, Fontana transcended the surface of another Concetto Spaziale, Attese, this time on a red canvas, (estimate: €1,000,000-1,500,000). ‘My cuts are above all a philosophical statement,’ said the artist. Further works by the artist, offered at all price points, will be offered, such as Concetto spaziale, attesa, from 1961 (estimate: €200,000-300,000).

The auction will also include firm favourites from the Post-War canon, including works by the ‘father of Minimalism’ Enrico Castellani. Dating from 1987, Enrico Castellani’s Superficie Bianca demonstrates the artist experimenting with his signature white surfaces in dynamic fashion, as waves of light and shade seem to wash over the face of the work (estimate: €500,000-800,000). Further examples of Castellani’s playful canvases include another Superficie bianca conceived in 1967 (estimate: €350,000-500,000), and Senza titolo (Superficie), created from silk in 1961 (estimate: €130,000-230,000) which generates a different and sensual effect when subjected to the artist’s signature surface tension.


Further highlights of the auction include a selection of works from the important Collection of Ovidio Jacorossi. Consisting of key works of Italian art of the early 20th century, the Jacorossi collection is an active institution, receptive to new artistic tendencies and attentive to the conservation of the works. The future of the collection is focused on the opening of a new space in the historic centre of Rome devoted to exhibitions, screenings, performance, meetings and debates, but also a place of creative conviviality.

The collection features Giosetta Fioroni’s Liberty, executed in 1965, (estimate: €60,000-80,000). She was the sole female member of the Scuola di Piazza del Popolo, a group of artists that emerged in Rome during the 1960s. Fioroni was a key practitioner of an alternative and distinctly Italian mode of exploring Post-War consumer society, and at the heart of her practice lay the craft of drawing.

Francesco Lo Savio’s Spazio luce (1960) glows with a mysterious luminosity, a panel of golden brown – or brown-gold – that seems to emit light from the surface of the canvas itself (estimate €350,000-500,000). Although tragically dying in 1963 at the age of 28, Lo Savio achieved a remarkable amount in a career that spanned only four years and produced a revolutionary body of work that explored the relationship between the visual and physical in radical new ways.

Perfectly conjuring the texture of the streets of Post-War Europe, the tattered, dechiré remains of the posters in Mimmo Rotella’s Diciamo... informale from 1957 convey a sense of anxiety, as does their accretion (estimate: €80,000-120,000). At the same time the nature of posters themselves lends a hint of the wonders of the big screen, of advertising, of evenings on the town and entertainment. Appearing as a readymade relic, it is a political warning as well as an emotive depiction of the horrors of the recent past.

Further highlights by Pop practitioners will be coming from other private collections. These include Mario Schifano’s Paessagio anemico, from 1965, in which the artist deconstructs landscape painting with conceptual agility, using a number of visual strategies that subvert the norms of the genre (estimate: €120,000-200,000). Another work executed from 1965 is Franco Angeli’s Silver Star (estimate: €35,000-50,000). Recently exhibited in the Italian Pop Art retrospective at the Macro Museum in 2016, this work by Franco Angeli is a brilliant example of the artist’s artistic ability in the most Pop period of his career. Tano Festa’s vibrant work is also represented in the sale with key paintings. A main highlight, entitled Biasule (estimate: €80,000,120,000), reflects the artists’ powerful sense of quotidian simplicity; its blocky clarity anticipates his later reconstructions of windows and shutters, transforming them through the artistic process into geometric structures rather than objets trouvés.


Artists that represent the full breadth of 20th century Italian art also include Giuseppe Uncini, Leoncillo Leonardi and Osvaldo Licini. Executed in 1961, Cementarmato parabolico is a striking example of Giuseppe Uncini’s decisive experimentation with reinforced cement, which proposed a radical and unique response to the crisis of painting perceived in Post-War Italy (estimate: €180,000-250,000). Executed in 1960-62, San Sebastiano by Leoncillo displays the baroque freedom of form and vivid enthusiasm for art history that can be found in Fontana’s ceramics (estimate: €40,000-60,000). Fontana - Leoncillo – Forma della materia, a recent exhibition at the Fondazione Carriero, Milan, placed the artists side by side to illuminating effect, aiming to highlight Leoncillo’s importance in the canon of Post-War Italian art.

Touring Exhibition:

Rome, Musei di San Salvatore in Lauro

Piazza San Salvatore in Lauro 15

5-6 April 10.00am – 7.00pm

Turin, Palazzo Birago, Via Carlo Alberto 16

12 April 10.00am – 6.00pm

Milan, Palazzo Clerici, Via Clerici 5

21-26 April: 10.00am – 7.00pm


Milan Modern and Contemporary Evening Sale

27 April 2017, 7.00pm

Milan Modern and Contemporary Day Sale

28 April 2017, 3.00pm

Milan, Palazzo Clerici, Via Clerici 5

The Italian Tour Preview is supported by Azimut Capital Management SGR

Editor’s Notes


Highlights from the Magnificent Jewels auction in Geneva will be touring in Rome on:

5-6 April / 10.00am – 7.00pm

Musei di San Salvatore in Lauro

Piazza San Salvatore in Lauro 15



Rome in the l960’s was the most exciting and decadent city in Europe. The Cinecittà film studios attracted Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to its sound stages and when the cameras stopped rolling, they partied all night in the Grand Hotel on the Via Veneto.  Chronicling this mood was Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita.

The revival of interest in Italian jewellery of the l960’s is very much due to the fashion trends of dripping embroidered, lace trimmed and printed extravagances of Italy’s prime fashion labels Dolce et Gabbana and Gucci. This revival is led in the world of jewellery by Bulgari, Elizabeth Taylor’s favourite jewellery designer, whose gob-stopper cabochon rubies, emeralds and sapphires were surrounded by pave-cut diamonds and set into elaborate bright yellow gold mounts. 

Top Italian film star of the time Silvana Mangano’s cabochon smokey quartz, onyx panels and diamond accents sautoir by Bulgari  (estimate: CHF/US$ 40,000-50,000) in the sale given to her by her husband film producer Dino De Laurentiis,  is typical of the bold jewels of the dolce vita, as are the ruby, sapphire and diamond ‘serpenti’ watch-bracelets (estimate: CHF/US$200,000-300,000) also by Bulgari who virtually invented the jewellery style of classicism and modernity which is so characteristic of the brief period when Rome was so symbolic of the  decadence and romance of  the l960’s dolce vita of the international jet set. 

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