LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
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LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
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LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)

Concetto spaziale, Attesa

LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale, Attesa
signed, titled and inscribed 'l. Fontana Concetto Spaziale ATTESA La giostra girava, girava...' (on the reverse)
waterpaint on canvas
13 x 9 ½in. (33 x 24cm.)
Executed in 1967
Galerie Pierre, Stockholm.
Fred Wennerholm Collection, Stockholm.
Carl G. Bonde Collection, Eslöv.
Private Collection, Sweden.
Private Collection, London.
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 3 October 2017, lot 62.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 67 T 2 (illustrated, p. 188).
E. Crispolti, Fontana, Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 67 T 2 (illustrated, p. 653).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 67 T 2 (illustrated, p. 850).
Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold, exh. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019, p. 226, pl. 75 (illustrated in colour, p. 170).
Stockholm, Galerie Bleue & Galerie Pierre, Fontana, 1967.
St. Moritz, Robilant + Voena, Lucio Fontana, 2015-2016. This exhibition later travelled to New York, Robilant + Voena.

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Lot Essay

Comprising a single, searing cut through a brilliant yellow canvas, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attesa, 1967, is an electric example of the artist’s iconic tagli (‘cuts’). Executed over the course of a decade between 1958 and 1968, these works are undoubtedly the most widely-recognised of the artist’s ‘spatial concepts’. Characterised by their eloquent, vertical slashes made into canvases of pure, monochromatic colour, the tagli defy centuries of pictorial traditions in one concise gesture. The only yellow canvas of this year emblazoned with a single cut, the present painting gleams with luminescence. Shattering the boundaries between painting and sculpture, negation and creation, oblivion and infinity, it is a testament to the explosive dialectics at the heart of Fontana’s oeuvre. In an incision that is at once radical, and elegantly measured, the artist unveils an entirely new spatial dimension beyond the picture surface.

Fontana made his first puncture to the two-dimensional picture plane in 1949 with his twinkling, perforated buchi (‘holes’), and by the latter half of the 1960s, his idiom of cuts and slashes had reached new heights of sophistication. In Concetto spaziale, Attesa, his incision leaves a striking vertical sliver down the centre of his canvas. The mark is transfixing. At once evoking conflicting associations of violence and fragility, it both dazzles and lures us towards its void. Reflecting on his pioneering tagli, Fontana wrote: ‘With the slash I invited a formula that I don’t think I can perfect. I managed with this formula to give the spectator an impression of spatial calm, of cosmic rigour, of serenity in infinity’ (L. Fontana quoted in, E. Crispolti and L. Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol I, Milan 2006, p. 105). A year before the present painting’s execution, Fontana had presented a selection of tagli works at the Venice Biennale, which won him the Grand Prize for painting. Demonstrating the conceptual ambition of his works at this time, they were 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).

Fontana was greatly inspired by the technological and scientific developments of the 1960s. It was the height of the space age, and in 1961, the world witnessed a monumental venture for mankind as Soviet-born astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel to space in his spacecraft Vostok 1. In this new dawn of space exploration, the frontiers of human existence were radically shifting. In his art, Fontana followed this trajectory, launching into the limitless realms of space beyond the pictorial plane in great sweeps of his razor-sharp Stanley knife. He sought to transcend painting, synthesising sound, colour, movement, space and time within his work. Time passing is invoked in his title ‘Attesa’ (‘the wait’), and indeed poetically on the reverse of the present painting, where Fontana inscribed ‘La giostra girava, girava’ (The carousel went round and round’). ‘Art is eternal as a gesture,’ he declared in his first Spatialist manifesto, ‘but it will die as matter ... What we want to do is to unchain art from matter, to unchain the sense of the eternal from the preoccupation with the immortal. And we don’t care if a gesture, once performed, lives a moment or a millennium, since we are truly convinced that once performed it is eternal.’ (‘First Spatialist Manifesto’, 1947, reproduced in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Palazzo delle Esposzioni, Rome 1998, pp. 117-18).

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