LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)

Concetto Spaziale, Attese

LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
Concetto Spaziale, Attese
signed, titled and inscribed ‘l. Fontana “Concetto Spaziale” “Attese” Timida e ritrosa la Signora Pelè’ (on the reverse)
waterpaint on canvas
21 ¼ x 25 5/8in. (54 x 65cm.)
Executed in 1965-1966
Private Collection, London (acquired directly from the artist in 1962 and thence by descent).
Anon. sale, Christie’s London, 6 April 1989, lot 611.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Milan 2006, vol. II, no. 65-66 T 30 (illustrated, p. 822).
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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.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Held in the same private collection for over three decades, Concetto Spaziale, Attese is a precise and elegant example of Lucio Fontana’s celebrated tagli (‘cuts’). Begun in 1958, and pursued over the next decade until his death, these works marked the grand culmination of the artist’s ‘Spatialist’ theories, proposing a ground-breaking new interaction between art and science. Seeking to reveal the uncharted depths beyond the canvas—as the Space Age had done for humankind’s perception of cosmos—Fontana’s slashed canvases brought time, space and movement into thrilling alignment, miraculously dissolving the boundaries between painting and sculpture. The present work, with its near-grammatical arrangement of cuts, captures this mission at its most poetic, conjuring an ancient inscription or a piece of technological coding. It also demonstrates Fontana’s particular affinity with the colour red—one of his most iconic hues—which he would immortalise the following year in his landmark installation Ambiente Spaziale a Luce Rossa (Spatial Environment in Red Light).

During the 1960s, advancements in space travel shook the world. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space; by the end of the decade, the Apollo 11 mission would land the first man on the moon. Fontana—who sadly would not live to see this achievement—had long been fascinated by the idea that it might one day be possible for humankind to transcend the boundaries of the Earth. In 1946, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, he and a group of artists in his native Argentina had signed the inaugural Manifesto Blanco, proposing that art should evolve to match the spirit of contemporary scientific enquiry. ‘We live in the mechanical age,’ it declared. ‘Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist’ (L. Fontana et al., Manifesto Blanco, Buenos Aires 1946). By penetrating the sacred surface of the canvas, Fontana sought to reveal a fourth dimension for art: his works were no longer paintings or sculptures, but rather concetti spaziali (‘spatial concepts’) that united time, space and gesture on a single plane.

Fontana initially expressed these ideas through his early series of buchi, begun in the late 1940s, which involved piercing the canvas with small constellations of holes. With the slashing gesture, however, he gave powerful new form to his theories. As well as opening up the space behind the canvas to a greater degree, the dramatic sweep of the tagli made visible the temporal dimension of his art. Like particles rippling through space, or rockets launching into the stratosphere, the cut recorded the arc of its own creation, sealing it forever within the force field of the canvas. The hermetic, self-referential qualities of these works would have an important impact upon the international evolution of Minimalism and Conceptualism: movements which began to take shape during this period. At the same time, the portal-like appearance of the cuts—each revealing a dark void beyond—resonated with the celebrated ‘zips’ of Barnett Newman, which Fontana would likely have encountered during a trip to New York in the early 1960s. Both conjure the sense of an unknown dimension that flickers behind the picture plane, waiting to be discovered.

This sense of philosophical contemplation is captured in Fontana’s use of the word attese or attesa—translating as ‘waiting’ or ‘expectation’—appended to many of his titles. ‘[My cuts] are the mystery of the Unknown in art,’ he explained; ‘they are the Expectation of something that must follow’ (L. Fontana, quoted in Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 2006, p. 47). Accordingly, Fontana sought to place himself in a similar state of suspense in preparation for each work. Sitting before the canvas, he would watch its surface closely, waiting for the right moment to pounce. ‘I need a lot of concentration,’ he explained. ‘… Sometimes I leave the canvas there propped up for weeks before I am sure what I will do with it, and only when I feel certain do I begin’ (L. Fontana, quoted in P. Gottschaller, Lucio Fontana: The Artists Materials, Los Angeles 2012, p. 82). In the present work, this sense of anticipation is palpable: in the clean, rhythmic strokes of the knife, a feeling of pattern and order emerges, as if communicated from a world beyond our own.

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