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Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF AN ITALIAN GENTLEMAN
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)


Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
signed and dated ‘l. Fontana 52’ (on the base)
painted ceramic
34 5/8 x 16 1/8 x 12 3/4in. (88 x 41 x 32.5cm.)
Executed in 1952
Acquired directly to the artist by the father of the present owner.
Thence by descent to the present owner.
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo generale, vol. I, Milan 1986, no. 52 SC 18 (illustrated, p. 158).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni , vol. I, Milan 2006, no. 52 SC 18 (illustrated, p. 298).
Madrid, Palacio del Retiro, Exposicion de Arte Italiano Contemporaneo, Biennal Hispano-americana de Arte, 1955, no. 7 (illustrated, p. 50).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Alessandro Diotallevi
Alessandro Diotallevi

Lot Essay

Filled with a vivid sense of swirling motion, Lucio Fontana's Ballerina, created in 1952, perfectly demonstrates the way in which his figurative works often revealed his fascination with Spatial Art. It was only six years earlier, while he was in Buenos Aires during the Second World War, that Fontana had conceived the concept of Spatial Art. This was an art of movement, of dynamism. It ultimately led to his break away from figuration. Yet at the same time, the spiralling fronds of plaster that radiate from Ballerina themselves show an interest in space. After all, they penetrate the space, they articulate it, as they convey their intense sense of flowing movement. Ballerina is filled with a rich sense of materiality which is heightened by the miniature peaks and troughs of the highly-articulated surface, bearing testimony to the artist's own movements. There is an intensely tactile quality to this sculpture that is accentuated by the restrained polychromy. It is a tribute to the importance of Ballerina that it was selected for a survey of contemporary Italian art that was shown in Madrid at the Palacio del Retiro three years after its creation.

Ballerina dates from a period in which Fontana was involved in both figurative and abstract projects. He had been designing sculptures in relief for the fifth door of Milan Cathedral only a couple of years later, and would retain an interest in figuration throughout much of the 1950s. These appear to show a lingering fascination with the Baroque, which would itself result in his own series of so-called Barocchi. At the same time, Fontana was also creating abstract works using looping neon lights and had begun, a few years earlier, to create his Buchi, his 'holes'. In those works, he penetrated the two-dimensional picture surface of tradition, breaking through to another dimension. It was in February 1952, the same year that Ballerina was made, that Fontana exhibited them for the first time, marking out the new direction that his art would take for the final flourish of the last decade and a half of his life.

Looking at Ballerina, it becomes clear that Fontana's abstraction and figuration were not mutually exclusive artistic positions: instead, they all shared an interest in new ways of representing the world in a technological age. In the Manifesto Blanco, published by several of Fontana's followers in Buenos Aires a few years earlier, the nascent Spatialists had declared that, 'We live in the mechanical age. Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist’ (B. Arias, H. Cazeneuve, M. Fridman, The Manifesto Blanco, Buenos Aires, 1946). In Ballerina and the other figurative works that Fontana created over the following years, he revealed that painted plaster did indeed still have a reason to exist, even against a backdrop of artistic experimentation, for instance the Manifesto del Movimento Spaziale per la Televisione which was transmitted on the RAI television network in 1952 and in which he was one of the primary protagonists. Ballerina captures a different, yet no less evocative, sense of movement. Meanwhile, the clear continuity between Fontana's earlier, pre-war sculptures and Ballerina reveal the underlying interest in form and matter that had run like a thread through his work, even before the founding of Spatial Art.

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