Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) Concetto spaziale, Attese. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010
signed, titled and inscribed 'l. fontana/ATTESE/Concetto Spaziale Gimondi à conquistato la/maglia gialla' (on the reverse), waterpaint on canvas, 28 7/8 x 23¾in. (73.5 x 60.2cm.) Executed in 1965. Estimate £600,000 - £800,000 Price Realized £1,217,250 ($1,831,961)
Provenance: Stelio Tomei, New York.
Acquired by the present owner in the late 1970s.
Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 65 T 126 (illustrated, p. 167).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 65 T 126 (illustrated, p. 583).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 65 T 126 (illustrated, p. 768).
Notes: 'At a time when people were talking about planes (...) the plane of the surface, the plane of depth etc., making a hole was a radical gesture that broke the space of the picture and that said: after this we are free to do what we want. You cant confine the space of the picture to the limits of the canvas, but it has to be extended to the whole environment. I dont know how or in how many ways, because unfortunately I won't be alive in the year two thousand, but the important thing has been to testify to this need' (L. Fontana, quoted in D. Palazzoli, 'Intervista con Lucio Fontana in Bit, no. 5, Milan, October-November, 1967).
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) Concetto spaziale. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010
signed and dated 'l.fontana '54' (on the reverse) oil and coloured glass stones on canvas, 21½ x 65in. (55 x 165cm.) Executed in 1954 Estimate £750,000 - £950,000 Unsold
Provenance: Studio Marconi, Milan.
Toninelli Arte Moderna, Milan.
Private Collection, Milan.
Collection Curco, Rome.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 54 P 21 (illustrated, p. 35).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo generale, vol. I, Milan 1986, no. 54 P 21 (illustrated, p. 127).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. I, Milan 2006, no. 54 P 21 (illustrated, p. 270).
Exhibited: Milan, Galleria Medea, L'avventura spaziale di Lucio Fontana, October-November 1974.
Notes: Executed in 1954, Concetto spaziale is the third largest work in Lucio Fontana's revolutionary Pietre ('Stones') series. This work appears as an elegant, elongated frieze. Its surface sports a variety of textures and often earth-based colours, lending it an organic feel, the abstract forms of the composition revealing why Fontana occupied such an important position within the context of the Art Informel that was so important to the avant gardes in both the United States and Europe. At the same time, it recalls the Ceramiche which he had pioneered to such acclaim, the substantiality of the surface becoming reminiscent of clay and even of the Earth itself.
The organic palette and the variegated texture invoke nature, the primordial, and also ancient mark-making: the composition echoes the cave paintings in places such as Lascaux, those early traces of human activity. The paint has been applied in such a way that it fills the canvas with a sense of the artist's own gestures as he put brush to canvas. What marks Concetto spaziale out from the work of other Informel artists such as Burri, De Kooning or Dubuffet is the fact that our awareness of Fontana's own artistic activity is vividly augmented by the holes that punctuate the surface. The contrast between those punctures and the coloured pieces of glass, or 'stones' as Fontana referred to them, creates an intriguing interplay of space and of light. While Concetto spaziale has clearly disrupted the assumed two-dimensional nature of the picture plane by creating these voids and additions, he has also allowed the work to interact with its environment. The stones glisten, while the holes remain pools of darkness, of infinity, embedded in the surface. In this sense, Concetto spaziale pre-empts the Baroque nature of Fontana's subsequent Barocchi and in particular his famous 1961 series of Venice paintings.
Fontana had first made his great breakthrough, piercing the picture surface, in 1949 in a small group of works on linen paper. He soon saw the revolutionary potential of this idea and began to explore it in a range of works. The initial Buchi, or 'Holes', as the first series was known gradually evolved into the Pietri. The painterly surface in these works was more articulated and the holes embedded within it found their visual counterpoint in the addition of the gleaming stones. The painterly surface deliberately serves to highlight the very medium that Fontana was attacking, whose obsolescence he was trying to illustrate. As he explained, 'I make a hole in the canvas in order to leave behind the old pictorial formulae, the painting and the traditional view of art and I escape symbolically, but also materially, from the prison of the flat surface' (Fontana, quoted in T. Trini, 'The last interview given by Fontana', pp.34-36, W. Beeren & N. Serota (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh.cat., Amsterdam & London 1988, p. 34). In Concetto spaziale, that escape is made all the more explicit by the emphasis on the surface which, through Fontana's use of the stones and the holes, has been surpassed.
Christie's. Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction. 30 June 2010. London, King Street www.christies.com