LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more LIVING THROUGH ART: AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)

Concetto spaziale, Attese

LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale, Attese
signed, titled and inscribed ‘ATTESE l. Fontana “Concetto Spaziale” sette per nove quarantanove…giusto!!’ (on the reverse)
waterpaint on canvas
28 3/4 x 36 1/4in. (73 x 92cm.)
Executed in 1965
Galerie Pierre, Stockholm.
Private Collection, Milan.
Anon. sale, Christie’s London, 30 November 1995, lot 22.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 65 T 150 (illustrated, p. 771).
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. 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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Claudia Schürch
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Lot Essay

Executed in 1965, the year before Lucio Fontana mounted his ground-breaking all-white installation Ambiente Spaziale at the Venice Biennale, the present work is a rare example of his celebrated tagli, or ‘cuts’. It is one of just four documented examples to feature nine slashes upon a white background, each a pristine portal to the void. Into his pale surface, Fontana orchestrates a rhythmic, near-musical progression of incisions. Some are parallel to one another; others slant at alternate angles. The seventh cut extends down the length of the picture plane, like a comet blazing across the sky. Conceived at the height of the Space Age, Fontana’s tagli sought bold new frontiers for art. Opening up the unexplored territory behind the picture plane, these works transcended the categories of painting and sculpture, becoming ‘spatial concepts’ (concetti spaziali). For Fontana, as for many of his contemporaries working at the vanguard of international Minimalism, the white monochrome was among his most important surfaces. Here it serves as a blank ground zero, awaiting the advent of new discoveries.

Born in Argentina, Fontana originally trained as a sculptor. During his early travels in Europe, artists such as Constantin Brâncuși, Joan Miró and Fausto Melotti had an important impact upon his outlook. In 1946, in the wake of the Second World War, Fontana and a group of his students drafted the seminal Manifesto Blanco (White Manifesto), calling for art to abandon its old ways and to match the pioneering spirit of contemporary science and technology. ‘Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist’, it declared: art, instead, should address ‘the unity of time and space’ (L. Fontana et al, Manifesto Blanco, Buenos Aires, 1946). The following year, Fontana moved to Milan, publishing the Manifesto Spazialismo (Spatialist Manifesto) and inaugurating the movement that would come to be known as Spatialism. Among the defining early gestures of his art were the buchi (‘holes’): tiny perforations that penetrated the sacred surface of the canvas. In doing so, they liberated the artwork from its static, earthbound condition, inviting light, movement and energy to activate its very core.

In 1958, the buchi became the tagli. Beneath the long, sweeping arc of the knife, the canvas parted ways, revealing more profoundly than ever before the great abyss that lay beyond it. Just as humankind had taken vast leaps in comprehending the infinity of the cosmos, so too had art revealed its fourth dimension. By the time of the present work, Fontana’s tagli had reached extraordinary levels of sophistication, and were becoming increasingly ambitious in form. His presentation at Venice the following year, which won him the Grand Prize, was conceived as a ‘spatial environment … an environmental structure, a preliminary journey in which the twenty slits would be as if in a labyrinth containing blanks of the same shape and colour’ (L. Fontana, quoted in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat. Hayward Gallery, London 1999, p. 200). Like the present work, the entire spectacle was rendered in gleaming white. Fontana considered it to be ‘purest colour’, capable of conveying the ‘pure philosophy’ of his cosmic vision (L. Fontana, quoted in E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Volume I, Milan 2006, p. 79).

Fontana’s ideas resonated widely with those of his contemporaries: from ZERO in Europe to Gutai in Japan and Minimalism in America. 1965, notably, was the year that Donald Judd published his seminal text ‘Specific Objects’, asserting that ‘Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface’ (D. Judd, ‘Specific Objects’, Arts Yearbook 8, 1965). For Fontana, the moment that this ‘actual space’ revealed itself was one of great solemnity. The word ‘attese’, translating as ‘waiting’ or ‘expectation’, spoke poetically to the hushed silence that descended as he stood before his canvas. There, poised like a rocket on a launchpad, he awaited the perfect moment to strike through the picture plane. So profoundly unique was this act on each occasion that Fontana consecrated every tagli with an inscription on its reverse: a witticism or diary entry that marked the occasion. The present example reads ‘sette per nove quarantanove … giusto!!’ (‘seven times nine forty nine … correct!!’). Invoking the work’s nine cuts, it ultimately refutes all mathematical logic: a nod, perhaps, to the great incalculable mysteries of art and the universe.

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