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

Concetto spaziale, Attese

LUCIO FONTANA (1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale, Attese
signed, titled and inscribed ‘I. Fontana "concetto Spaziale" ATTESE oggi ho lavorato dalla mattina alla sera’ (on the reverse)
waterpaint on canvas
39 ½ x 32in. (100.4 x 81.4cm.)
Executed in 1966
Marlborough Galleria d’Arte, Rome.
Private Collection, Milan.
Galleria Seno, Milan (acquired from the above circa 1998).
Anon. sale, Christie’s London, 30 June 2008, lot 13.
Private Collection, Europe.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 66 T 127 (illustrated, p. 652).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 66 T 127 (illustrated, p. 847).
's-Hertogenbosch, Design Museum Den Bosch, Lucio Fontana. The Conquest of Space, 2021-2022 (illustrated in colour, p. 125).

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Four vertical slashes are intercepted by two blazing diagonals in Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attese: a hypnotic example of the artist’s celebrated tagli (‘cuts’). Across its pristine white surface, the six incisions dance in near-perfect serial repetition, each placed with exacting precision. The work dates from 1966: the year that Fontana’s dazzling room of white tagli won him the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale. During this period, he began to strip away the Baroque excesses of his earlier oeuvre, drawn increasingly to the colourless properties of white. It was, he believed, the ‘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). Notable for its sequential, rhythmic pulse and elegant, geometric distribution of cuts, the present work encapsulates the Minimalist rigour that energised Fontana’s Spatialist ambitions during this period. It is one of only a handful of white tagli featuring six cuts, one of which is held in the Museum Folkwang, Essen.

Fontana routinely inscribed the reverse of his tagli with notes and observations, each serving as chapters in an ongoing diary. The back of the present work, interestingly, reads ‘today I worked from morning to night’. Time, in all its mystery and malleability, lay at the core of Fontana’s philosophies. Originally trained as a sculptor, he had followed with interest the developments of science, technology and space travel. Together with a group of artists in his native Argentina, he had founded the movement known as Spatialism, vowing to dispense with traditional media and instead to cultivate art forms based on space, movement and energy. As humankind delved deeper into the cosmos, time was revealed anew, no longer understood as a linear concept but rather as an endless cyclical continuum. By violating the surface of the canvas—first in his buchi (‘holes’), begun in the late 1940s, and subsequently in the tagli from 1957 onwards—Fontana embedded this idea within his art. These works were no longer static reflections of the world, but rather living records of their own creation. Time, in the tagli, was momentarily halted: the sweeping, dynamic gesture of Fontana’s knife was preserved forever in the parted fibres of the canvas.

The present work’s rhythmic qualities are particularly interesting in this regard. The clean, evenly-spaced cuts serve to articulate a sense of temporal progression, like the beat of a metronome or the hands of a clock. At the same time, its repeated pattern seems to collapse time back in on itself, as though the sequence might continue indefinitely. This duality was also central to Fontana’s method of producing the tagli. The rapid, instant nature of his slashing gesture was counterbalanced by long, meditative periods of contemplation. Fontana would stand in silence before his canvases, knife in hand, waiting patiently for the perfect moment to strike. The word ‘Attese’, included in many of his titles, translates as ‘waiting’ or ‘expectation’, capturing the sense of profound anticipation that precipitated his sweeping gestures. ‘What we want to do is to unchain art from matter’, declared Fontana’s First Spatialist Manifesto of 1947; ‘… 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’ (L. Fontana, ‘First Spatialist Manifesto’, 1947, reproduced in E. Crispolti et al. (eds.), Lucio Fontana, Milan 1998, pp. 117-118).

In this sense, Fontana’s tagli succeeded in uniting time and space. The uncharted depths behind the canvas were literally opened up, paralleling the journeys that astronauts were making into the unknown frontiers of the universe. These ‘spatial concepts’ (concetti spaziali) no longer privileged subjects or materials, but instead served as living records of speed, gesture and action. In 1910, the Italian Futurists had laid the groundwork for this line of thinking, proclaiming that ‘The gesture which we would reproduce on canvas shall no longer be a fixed moment in universal dynamism. It will be dynamic sensation itself’ (U. Boccioni et al., ‘Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto’, 1910, reproduced in C. Harrison and P. Wood (ed.), Art in Theory 1900-1990, Cambridge 1993, p. 150). Fontana, in turn, would himself pave the way for the work of Yves Klein, the German ZERO group and the American Minimalists, all of whom sought new spatial and temporal dimensions for art. Concetto spaziale, Attese seems to count down the hours, anticipating a world in which painting and sculpture would take leave of their earthly shackles altogether, and take flight into the beyond.

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