ALBERTO BURRI (1915-1995)
ALBERTO BURRI (1915-1995)
ALBERTO BURRI (1915-1995)
ALBERTO BURRI (1915-1995)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A SIGNIFICANT EUROPEAN COLLECTION
ALBERTO BURRI (1915-1995)

Sacco SP 1

ALBERTO BURRI (1915-1995)
Sacco SP 1
signed, titled and dated ‘Burri 56 SACCO’ (on the reverse)
oil and burlap on canvas
39 3/4 x 29 1/4in. (101 x 74.4cm.)
Executed in 1956
The Artist.
Professor Raimondo Bariatti Collection, Milan.
Galleria Lorenzelli, Milan.
Galleria Blu, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 2000s.
C. Brandi, Burri, Rome 1963, no. 191 (illustrated, p. 204).
A. Sala, ‘I sacchi “dolorosi” di Alberto Burri’, in Il Corriere della Sera, 11 February 1979.
A. Sala, ‘I sacchi di Alberto Burri’, in Studio Marconi, vol. 10, 22 March 1979 (illustrated, p. 42; titled 'Sacco').
R. Barilli, ‘I fiori dell’Informale’, in Arte, no. 132, July-August 1983, p. 72 (detail illustrated in colour with incorrect orientation, pp. 3 and 73).
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini (ed.), Burri: Contributi al Catalogo Sistematico, Città di Castello 1990, pp. 70, 483 and 543, nos. 269 and 56.8 (illustrated in colour with incorrect orientation, p. 71; titled 'Sacco').
F. Tedeschi, ‘Alberto Burri – Galleria Niccoli’, in Terzo Occhio, vol. XIX, no. 4, December 1993, p. 64.
C. Cerritelli, ‘Alberto Burri. A distanza di quarant’anni i “sacchi” ripropongono la loro verità visiva’, in Nuova Meta parole & immagini, vol. VIII, no. 1, January-March 1994, p. 17 (detail illustrated).
R. Ferrario, ‘Alberto Burri – Niccoli’, in Flash Art, no. 181, February 1994, p. 100.
L. Vergine, L’arte in trincea. Lessico della tendenze artistiche 1960-1990, Milan 1996 (illustrated with incorrect orientation, p. 7).
M. Corgnati, ‘Burri & Palazzoli un “sacco” amici nel nome dell’arte’, in La Repubblica, 16 June 2001 (illustrated, p. 18).
G. Simongini, ‘Primavera fuori stagione’, in Ars, October 2001 (detail illustrated, p. 16).
A. Paolucci, Mille anni di arte italiana, Florence 2006, no. 145 (illustrated in colour with incorrect orientation, pp. 195 and 238).
L. Lorenzoni, ‘Burri e la Biennale di Venezia 1952-1988’, in Alberto Burri Opera al Nero Cellotex 1972-1992, Milan 2012, p. 214.
E. Crispolti, 'Burri è stato informale?', in Materia Forma e Spazio nella pittura di Alberto Burri, Perugia 2015, no. 13 (illustrated in colour, p. 28).
B. Corà (ed.), Burri: General Catalogue, Painting, 1945-1957, Volume 1, Città di Castello 2015, p. 309, no. 542 (illustrated, p. 230).
B. Corà (ed.), Burri: General Catalogue Chronological Repertory, 1945-1994, Volume VI, Città di Castello 2015, no. i.568 (illustrated, p. 102).
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Paintings by Alberto Burri, 1957, no. 20 (titled 'Sacco'). This exhibition later travelled to Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago; Buffalo, Albright Art Gallery and San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art.
São Paolo, Museu de Arte Moderna, Artistas Italianos de Hoje, na 5a Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo - Brasil, 1959, no. 21.
Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna, Burri, Somaini, Vespignani. Três artistas italianos premiados na 5a Bienal de São Paulo, 1960, no. 8.
Milan, Toninelli Arte Moderna, Afro Burri Marino, 1965, no. 3 (illustrated, unpaged).
Bologna, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, L’Informale in Italia, 1983, p. 306, no. 158 (illustrated in colour, p. 221).
Parma, Galleria d’Arte Niccoli, Alberto Burri la pittura come materia vivente opere dal 1949 al 1966, 1993-1994, p. 50 (illustrated in colour, p. 51).
Aix-en-Provence, Galerie d’Art du Conseil Général des Bouches-du-Rhône, Giorgio Morandi, Marino Marini, Alberto Burri, Zoran Music. Quatre temps, quatre aspects de l’art italien au XXe siècle, 2000, p. 16 (illustrated in colour, p. 60).
Luino, Palazzo Verbania Civico Centro di Cultura, Burri & Palazzoli. La Santa Alleanza, 2001, p. 82 (illustrated in colour with incorrect orientation, p. 83). This exhibition later travelled to Milan, Galleria Blu.
Rome, Museo del Corso, Dal Futurismo all’Astrattismo: Un percorso d’avanguardia nell’arte Italiana del primo Novecento, 2002, p. 222, no. 73 (illustrated in colour with incorrect orientation, p. 223).
Milan, Galleria Blu, Apollo e Dioniso: una riconciliazione impossibile. Attraverso l’informale, 2006 (illustrated in colour).
Milan, Triennale di Milano, Alberto Burri, 2008-2009, p. 228, no. 10 (illustrated in colour with incorrect orientation, p. 79).
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
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Interim Head of Department

Lot Essay

Unveiled in Alberto Burri’s solo exhibition at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh in 1957, and widely exhibited since, the present work is a sumptuous example of his Sacchi (Sacks). Originally held in the artist’s personal collection, it takes its place at the pinnacle of his most important and influential series. Forged from raw swathes of burlap sacking, torn, ripped and stitched back together, this ground-breaking cycle of works revolutionised the landscape of post-war painting, both in Europe and America. Against a cavernous dark backdrop, the present work transforms its humble medium into a complex, mesmerising terrain. At once painterly and sculptural, the fabric is punctured by great gaping holes, evocative of the flame-torched Combustione (Combustions) that Burri began to produce that year. The curator Michel Bépoix described it as a ‘superb example’ of the artist’s emotive use of black, while the scholar Francesco Tedeschi hailed it as a work of the ‘highest quality’. It is a bold, theatrical instance of a language that spoke evocatively to a wounded world, and offered hope for its healing.

Created largely between 1950 and 1956, the Sacchi were among Burri’s earliest major works. They were deeply connected to his experience of the Second World War, in which he had served as an army doctor before being held at a prisoner of war camp in Hereford, Texas. Burlap was rife during the conflict: a strong all-purpose material that was used to carry supplies, camouflage vehicles and build tents. During his internment, Burri began to explore its artistic potential, initially using it like a canvas upon which to paint. After returning to Italy, however, he began to collage pieces together, effectively transforming the support into the artwork itself. Burlap was not a new medium: artists such as Paul Klee and Joan Miró had occasionally utilised the commercially-produced variety in place of linen. Burri’s works, however, drew upon used, worn scraps, which he salvaged directly from the mill in Città di Castello. The illusionistic space of the canvas had vanished: in its place was something real, with its own story to tell.

Conversant with examples held in museums worldwide—including the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf—the present work is situated at the peak of the series. By this stage, Burri’s method had reached extraordinary levels of ambition and sophistication, fuelled by a deep sensitivity to the texture, weave and behaviour of burlap. Here, as in many of the Sacchi, the artist has used a black textile underlayer which gapes through the sackcloth’s apertures, conjuring the buchi (‘holes’) of Lucio Fontana. Working on the floor, Burri alternated between the front and back of the picture plane, by turns ripping and repairing. The artist, a former surgeon, was skilled at stitching: his neighbours, according to one critic, referred to him as ‘The Tailor’. In the present work, his rough-hewn needlework weaves across the surface with the dexterity of drawn lines, each thread alive with rhythmic vitality. The burlap, meanwhile, undulates like thick impasto, twisting and turning in rhapsodic formations. The entire composition is veiled in a sense of Baroque elegance and drama, its worn fibres transfigured into a spectacle of sublime beauty.

By the time of the present work, Burri was making waves in the international art world. In 1955, he mounted his first solo museum exhibition at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, along with his second show at the Stable Gallery in New York. That year, he also participated in the landmark group exhibition The New Decade at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Buoyed by his success in the States, along with his marriage to the American dancer Minsa Craig, Burri would spend increasing amounts of time across the Atlantic. While his Sacchi resonated strongly with contemporary developments in Europe, chiming with the currents of Art Informel and anticipating the evolution of Italian Arte Povera, they also found much in common with the work of American artists during this period. Robert Rauschenberg, in particular—whom Burri visited during this period—was beginning to explore the properties of everyday substances, both in his Combines and in his ‘black paintings’. The present work’s rich, abstract textures, meanwhile, prompt comparison with the gestural surfaces of Abstract Expressionism, which similarly sought to rid the canvas of all figurative allusion.

While the Sacchi were avowedly anti-representational, critics have drawn parallels between their sumptuous chiaroscuro textures and the rich, velvety surfaces of the Old Master paintings that Burri was exposed to during his upbringing in Umbria. In his youth he had regularly cycled to Monterchi to visit Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto (1455-65), as well as immersing himself in the frescoes of Arezzi, Assisi and Sansepolcro. As the curator Emily Braun details, his friend and former lover Sandra Blow recalls how the artist would regularly point of the ‘abstract elements’ of these Renaissance masterworks, highlighting the ‘mobile folds’ of the drapery ‘scrunched and tucked by laces’ (S. Blow, quoted in E. Braun, Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting, exh. cat. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 2015, p. 41). The present work, with its dark, gaping voids, is particularly evocative of works by Caravaggio, including The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1602) and Saint Francis in Prayer (1602-1604).

Burri had witnessed first-hand the carnage of the Second World War, and the rubble it left behind. Despite refuting all symbolic associations, the Sacchi nonetheless emerged as profound symbols of their time. ‘Every patch in the sacking’, wrote the critic Herbert Read, ‘every gaping wound-like hole, the charred edges and rugged cicatrices, reveal the raw sensibility of an artist outraged by the hypocrisy of a society that presumes to speak of beauty, tradition, humanism, justice and other fine virtues’ (H. Read, quoted in M. Duranti, Alberto Burri: Form and Matter, exh. cat. Estorick Collection, London 2012, p. 5). The present work is riddled with scars, punctures and violations; in the years that followed, Burri would begin to set fire to his materials, torching their surfaces into oblivion. From destruction, however, came hope. His sackcloth, though torn and bruised, is reborn as a site of profound creative potential: a vision of salvation, restoration and transcendence for a new generation.

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