Fausto Melotti (1901-1986)
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Fausto Melotti (1901-1986)

Arte del contrappunto plastico n. 1

Fausto Melotti (1901-1986)
Arte del contrappunto plastico n. 1
signed and numbered 'Melotti 1/3' (along the base)

Executed in 1969, this work is no. 1 from an edition of 3
stainless steel
15 ¾ x 63 x 7 ¾in. (40 x 160 x 20 cm.)
Executed in 1969, this work is no. 1 from an edition of 3
Marlborough Galleria d’Arte, Rome.
Studio Gariboldi, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
P. Fossati, Lo spazio inquieto / Fausto Melotti, Milan 1971, no. 46 (another from the edition illustrated with incorrect date, unpaged).
A. M. Hammacher, Melotti, Milan 1975 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 136, titled Contrappunto n. 1).
G. Bolaffi, Bolaffi. Catalogo della scultura italiana, Vol. V, Turin 1980 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 130).
Janus, Ed., Guida all’Opera di Fausto Melotti, in “Bolaffi. Catalogo della Scultura Italiana”, no. 5, Milan 1981 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 130).
I. Mussa, Fausto Melotti. L’armonia dello spazio, in “Le Arti News”, no. 2, Milan 1983 (another from the edition illustrated).
G. Celant, Melotti, Catalogo Generale, Milan 1994, vol. I, no. 1969 11 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 220).
New York, Paolo Baldacci Gallery, Fausto Melotti. Anti-Sculpture, 1994, no. 20 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, p. 24).
M. Meneguzzo, Melotti il filarmonico, in “Avvenire”, Milan 2000 (another from the edition illustrated).
C. Corbetta, Mostre, ni “Vogue Italia”, Milan 2000, no. 599 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 48).
A. Zanchi, Melotti, l’umana geometria degli spazi angelici, in “Stile”, Bergamo, year V, 2000 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 29).
Turin, Galleria Galatea, Fausto Melotti, 1971, no. 3 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, unpaged).
Dortmund, Museum am Ostwall, Fausto Melotti, 1971.
Turin, Galleria Civica di Arte Moderna, Melotti, 1972, no. 62, tav. 47 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, dated 1970).
Zurich, Marlborough Galerie AG, Fausto Melotti, 1973, no. 26. This exhibition travelled to Rome, Marlborough Galleria d’Arte, Rome, Galleria Marlborough, Fausto Melotti, 1973.
Parma, Università di Parma, Sala delle Scuderie in Pilotta, Fausto Melotti, 1976, tav. 187.
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Melotti, 1979, no. 35 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated pp. 38-39).
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Melotti, 1983, no. 26 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, p. 46).
Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Melotti, 1985, no. 12 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, p. 32).
Milan, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Fausto Melotti. L’acrobata invisibile, 1987, no. 13 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, p. 35).
Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Fausto Melotti 1901-1986, 1999.
Busto Arsizio, Fondazione Bandera per l’Arte, Fausto Melotti. Segno, musica e poesia, 2000
Brussels, Gladstone Gallery, Fausto Melotti, 2008-2009.
Lugano, Museo d’Arte, Klee-Melotti, 2013, no. 36 (illustrated in colour, p. 193).
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.

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Alessandro Diotallevi
Alessandro Diotallevi

Lot Essay

‘I use metal because it brings me close to drawing: with metal I can draw in space’

Created in 1969, Arte del Contrappunto plastico n. 1 is an elegant example of the growing complexity of Fausto Melotti’s sculpture as he entered the second phase of his artistic career, following a period of creative silence caused by the trauma of the Second World War. Spurred by the emergence of a new generation of Italian artists intent on subverting classical notions of sculpture and painting, Melotti began to explore his pre-war experiments in abstraction once again, playing with the materiality of his constructions and pushing the whimsical and poetic dimensions of his work to new levels. Over the course of the 1960s and 70s Melotti developed a unique sculptural language, which resulted in the creation of a series of beautifully ordered, precise yet lyrical metal sculptures built from thin sheets and delicate threads of brass, gold and steel. These dynamic compositions expressed two contrasting aesthetic concerns – the abstract and the narrative – while also exploring the materiality of the fabric used in the sculpture’s construction. Arte del Contrappunto plastico n. 1 perfectly encapsulates this new approach within Melotti’s sculpture, and reveals the influence that music and its structures had on the artist’s creative process.

Formed of a series of pure, geometric elements – squares, lines, rectangles, ellipses and circles – Arte del Contrappunto plastico n. 1 explores the visual relationships that occur between different forms when arranged in various configurations. Appearing in small, informal groupings, these basic themes fill the broad expanse of the horizontal sculpture, repeating themselves at several points within the frame but with slight variations and subtle adjustments in each iteration. For example, an ovoid shape recurs in several different positions over the length of the composition, appearing horizontally, vertically, in varying sizes, and in varying states of transparency. By aligning these dynamic shapes with different combinations of the other forms, at times introducing subtle detailing and ornament to the shapes, Melotti creates a rich web of dynamic internal relationships.

Throughout his career, Melotti had explored the visual oppositions of movement and stasis, rigidity and flexibility, solidity and weightlessness, as a means of challenging traditional conceptions of the sculptural medium. The artist saw metals such as brass and steel as dynamic materials, explaining: ‘I use metal because it brings me close to drawing: with metal I can draw in space’ (Melotti, quoted in Melotti, exh. cat., Rome, 1983, p. 10). In Arte del Contrappunto plastico n. 1, Melotti transforms the heavy, cold steel into a malleable fabric, pared back into impossibly thin strips, while still retaining the tensile strength of the essential material. By opening out the structure of the sculpture, he achieves a permeability that pushes the boundaries of traditional conceptions about the medium. This openness invites the viewer to travel around the sculpture, to consider it from multiple angles, generating a completely different sequence of views, depending on where you are standing. The internal relationships of these different elements shift and alter as the eye moves around the work, inviting the viewer to interpret the sculpture’s contents in their own way, connecting the different elements into their own poetic narrative.
From the early stages of his career, Melotti had always been struck by the structure of musical compositions, and the artist soon sought to incorporate their rules into his work. Chief amongst these musical inspirations was the concept of the counterpoint, a complex melodious structure most commonly present in classical music. The creation of harmonies presents a particular challenge in contrapuntal music as it involves multiple voices, or parts, following independent melodies while remaining interdependent at the same time. Melotti is faced with a similar challenge in the present work, as he strives to create a coherent sculpture from the complex sequence of motifs and symbols that populate the structure, ensuring they correspond to one another while also retaining their individual identities. Delicately balancing each of these elements, Arte del Contrappunto plastico n. 1 appears as a chorus of geometric voices, turned into a symphony of lines and shimmers across space, a sculpture that is at once dynamic and still, absorbing and contemplative.

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