Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED BRITISH COLLECTION
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)

Concetto spaziale, Attese

Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale, Attese
signed, titled and inscribed 'l. fontana "Concetto Spaziale" ATTESA Questo è l'ultimo quadro della settimana' (on the reverse)
waterpaint on canvas
21¾x 18 3/8in. (55.2 x 46.5cm.)
Executed in 1964
Fontana Gallery, Tokyo.
Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo. (acquired from the above mid 1960.)
Private Collection.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 7 February 2001, lot 32.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 64 T 124 (illustrated, p. 539).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 64 T 124 (illustrated, p. 725).
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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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Lot Essay

A single slash incises the spectacular red canvas of Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attese (1964). Opening the surface dead centre at a perfect vertical, the incision makes an iconic declaration of intent. Neither destructive nor violent, Fontana’s cuts were an act of creation. He transcended the surface of the canvas to reveal a dark, enigmatic space beyond: with this apparently simple gesture, he invited the viewer to be consumed by the black infinity beyond the picture plane. In doing so, Fontana opened up, both literally and figuratively, a whole new dimension of possibilities to advance the course of art in what he saw as a new ‘spatial’ era. ‘As a painter,’ he said, ‘while working on one of my perforated canvases, I do not want to make a painting: I want to open up space, create a new dimension for art, tie in with the cosmos as it endlessly expands beyond the confining plane of the picture’ (quoted in J. van der Marck & E. Crispolti, La Connaissance, Brussels 1974, p. 7).

Fontana was an heir of the Futurists, obsessed with the new potential for man offered by advances in technology. In particular, the Space Age, though barely conceivable in the 1940s when Fontana’s spatialist movement first took shape, unlocked whole new avenues of artistic imagination. The 1946 Manifesto Blanco, which was compiled largely under Fontana’s direction, had declared that ‘We live in the mechanical age. Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist’ (B. Arias, H. Cazeneuve & M. Fridman, Manifesto Blanco, Buenos Aires, 1946). Accordingly, when Fontana first began puncturing the canvas with his buchi (‘holes’) he appeared to combine the ‘opening’ of the two dimensions with an act that violently proclaimed the redundancy of the canvas itself. This act of piercing very soon developed, however, into something far more profound: with the tagli (‘cuts’), beyond merely desecrating the support that had been one with traditional Western painting for centuries, Fontana created a visual idiom that transcended the canvas with a plain and confident beauty. Well before spaceflight was achieved in 1961, the Second Spatialist Manifesto had declared: ‘we spatial artists have escaped from the cities, we have shattered our shell, our physical crust, and we have looked at ourselves from above, photographing the earth from rockets in flight’ (L. Fontana, Second Spatialist Manifesto, 1948, reproduced in E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo Generale, vol. 1, Milan 1986, p. 35). It is precisely this sense of awesome, ecstatic freedom that is expressed in works such as Concetto spaziale, Attese.

In contrast to the earlier celestial perforations of the buchi, Fontana’s tagli, begun in 1958-1959, capture a sense of motion: of particles rippling in the wake of a meteor, a spacecraft’s trajectory, the sweeping arc of a comet mid-orbit. Where the buchi had permitted only a glimpse of the dark territory beyond the canvas, the tagli part the curtain to reveal what Fontana described as ‘the fourth dimension’. ‘Infinity passes through them, light passes through them,’ he elaborated; ‘there is no need to paint’ (quoted in E. Crispolti, ‘Spatialism and Informel: The Fifties,’ in exh. cat., Lucio Fontana, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Milan, 1998, p. 146). The assured, balletic taglio in the red blankness of Concetto Spaziale, Attese conveys this unfolding Space Age wonder with exquisite clarity. To create the work, Fontana first applied red waterpaint to the surface of the canvas using a paintbrush, ensuring that the surface remained perfectly smooth, free of any brushstrokes or evidence of the artist’s own hand. Following this preparation, he carefully slashed through the canvas from top to bottom with a knife. The single, perfect aperture refines his technique to its most potent and lyrical: this is no impulsive or unplanned gesture, but an elegant and assured statement of sublime importance. Fontana would spend a long period contemplating the canvas with immense concentration before making his move. Attese translates as ‘waiting’ or ‘expectation’. The slash preserves a momentary gesture for a far-flung future, the new existence that Fontana anticipated for man in the universe. ‘My cuts are above all a philosophical statement,’ he said, ‘an act of faith in the infinite, an affirmation of spirituality. When I sit down to contemplate one of my cuts, I sense all at once an enlargement of the spirit, I feel like a man freed from the shackles of matter, a man at one with the immensity of the present and of the future’ (quoted in L. M. Barbero, ‘Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York’ in L. M. Barbero, ed., exh. cat., Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2006, p. 23).

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