Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) , Concetto spaziale. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
signed 'l. fontana' (lower right); signed, inscribed and titled 'l. Fontana "Concetto spaziale" lo e la Carla abbiamo mangiato i pesciolini fritti' (on the reverse), oil on canvas, 39½ x 31 7/8in. (100.3 x 81cm.). Executed in 1964. Estimate £1,000,000 - £1,500,000($1,600,000 - $2,300,000). Price Realized £2,337,250 ($3,730,251)
Provenance: Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Rome.
Court Gallery, Copenhagen.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1966.
Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 64 O 5 (illustrated, p. 140).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 64 O 5 (illustrated, p. 482).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 64 O 5 (illustrated, p. 675).
Notes: "Gold is as beautiful as the Sun"
("l'oro è bello come il sole", The artist's inscription on the reverse of Concetto spaziale, 1964 (64 O 11)).
Executed in 1964, Concetto spaziale is a large-scale, radiant, and sensual gold Olii by the pioneering Italian Post-War artist Lucio Fontana. A treasured part of a European private collection, this is the first time this majestic work has been seen by the public for over forty-five years. In Concetto spaziale, Fontana has perforated the rich surface of the canvas with eight bucchi or holes as part of his ongoing Spatialist investigations. He makes direct contact with the sumptuous gold monochromatic surface, violently disrupting its pristine material and moulding the resulting cavities as if with the clay of his earlier terracotta Natura series. In Concetto spaziale, the artist has used his fingers to manipulate the canvas and its wealth of malleable gold oil paint, pulling the holes apart to form extended gouges in the surface. These pregnant ruptures are assembled in a concentric circle, encompassing an illusory taglie or cut in the centre of the canvas, formed by two vertical scratches. Surrounding the whole composition is a freely gestured circle, scored into the paint by a hard-edged instrument. The resulting pattern recalls cosmic constellations, the ripened flesh of fruit and the carnal imprint of female sexuality. At the same time, the gilded opulence of Concetto spaziale, rendered especially lustrous by Fontana's pink preparatory under-painting, pays striking tribute to the Venetian Baroque and its legacy of splendid beauty. Visiting Venice in 1961 to exhibit at the exhibition Arte e Contemplazione at Palazzo Grassi, Fontana was struck by the reflective surfaces of Byzantine gold, the mosaics of the Basilica di San Marco and the golden furniture and decorative curlicues of the city's Rococo ornaments. In Concetto spaziale, created three years later, this debt to the city is particularly evident, with its circular island floating in a lagoon of sumptuous golden oil paint.
'it is necessary to overturn and transform painting, sculpture and poetry. A form of art is now demanded which is based on the necessity of this new vision. The baroque has guided us in this direction, in all its as yet unsurpassed grandeur, where the plastic form is inseparable from the notion of time, the images appear to abandon the plane and continue into space the movements they suggest'
(Lucio Fontana Manifesto, translated by C. Damiano, 1951, reproduced in L. Massimo Barbero (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, Venice & New York 2006, p. 229).
Fontana emerged as a leading figure in the European avant-garde upon his return from Argentina in 1947. In Milan he pioneered the concept of Spazialismo, a radical revision of the purposes of cultural production that advocated 'art based on the unity of time and space' (Manifesto Blanco, Buenos Aires 1946, reproduced in E. Crispolti et al. (eds.), Lucio Fontana, Milan 1998, p. 116). Turning away from the materialism of recent practice, Fontana began to investigate the possibilities of raw materials, no longer using the canvas as an illustrative carrier of meaning but as an active element in the definition of space. In this project, Fontana was deeply engaged with the geopolitical context of the new Nuclear age, characterised by advances in quantum physics and pioneering space exploration. These developments were rapidly changing the context of contemporary life and Fontana believed that as a modern artist the only way forward was to embrace scientific potential and create a new psychological realm for exploration. In a stunningly simple yet innovative gesture, Fontana replaced painting with a bucchi or taglie opening up a two dimensional canvas into a third plane, disrupting the illusion of the flat surface and exposing it to the concept of 'beyond'; a process that was to define his oeuvre. As Fontana once said of his practice, 'Einstein's discovery of the cosmos is the infinite dimension, without end. And here we have the foreground, middleground and background, what do I have to do to go further? I make a hole, infinity passes through it, light passes through it, there is no need to painteveryone thought I wanted to destroy; but it is not true, I have constructed' (Lucio Fontana in conversation with Carla Lonzi 1967, reproduced in C. Lonzi (ed.), Autoritratto, Bari 1969, p. 176)
In Fontana's Concetto spaziale, he takes his concept further, replacing the raw canvas with a densely laden, oil paint hewn surface. He furnishes a new relationship with the work, creating linear and circular scratches and multiple perforations that emphasise the contrast between material and the void. The resulting appearance seems at once carnal and erotic, celebrating female sexuality in its reference to the intimate contours of the woman's anatomy. At the same time it seems painful, the epidermis of the canvas furled at the edges of each puncture in a mark reminiscent of the stigmata. As Fontana once explained, 'they represent the pain of man in space. The pain of the astronaut, squashed, compressed, with instruments sticking out of his skin, is different from ourshe who flies in space is a new type of man, with new sensations, not least painful ones' (Lucio Fontana quoted in E. Crispolti (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat. Palazzo delle Esposizione, Rome 1998, p. 244).
In Concetto Spaziale, not only does Fontana meditate on space but on movement, temporality and the notion of the eternal. The eight orifices that penetrate the canvas are alive with the air and light that pass through them, yet they are equally suspended in time, infinitely re-enacting the moment of their creation. This continuous dynamic captured in space and time, coupled with the resplendent gold of the canvas recalls elements of the Baroque that Fontana so admired. As Fontana once suggested in his Manifesto Technico dello Spazialismo, 'it is necessary to overturn and transform painting, sculpture and poetry. A form of art is now demanded which is based on the necessity of this new vision. The baroque has guided us in this direction, in all its as yet unsurpassed grandeur, where the plastic form is inseparable from the notion of time, the images appear to abandon the plane and continue into space the movements they suggest' (Lucio Fontana Manifesto, translated by C. Damiano, 1951, reproduced in L. Massimo Barbero (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, Venice & New York 2006, p. 229). KA
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, Attese. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
signed twice, titled and inscribed 'l. Fontana l. Fontana 'Concetto Spaziale' ATTESA era una bellissima Triennale. Ho rifatto due volte la firma' (on the reverse), waterpaint on canvas, 57½ x 44 7/8in. (146 x 114cm.). Executed in 1966. Estimate £2,000,000 - £3,000,000 ($3,100,000 - $4,500,000). Price Realized £2,057,250 ($3,283,371)
Provenance: Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Rome.
Paul Haim & Co., Paris.
Galleria Seno, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1980.
Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 66 T 40 (illustrated, p. 183).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 66 T 40 (illustrated, p. 637).
Bocola, 2001, no. 773 (illustrated in colour, pp. 121, 128 and 166).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 66 T 40 (illustrated, p. 833).
Exhibited: Venice, XXXIII Biennale Internazionale dell'Arte, 1966.
Milan, Galleria Seno, Fontana, 1973, no. 12 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Lucio Fontana: Retrospektive, 1996-97 (illustrated in colour, p. 195). This exhibition later travelled to Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig.
Notes: 'At the Venice Biennale in 1966 Fontana proposed a room in which were gathered together and disposed according to a particular architectural arrangement some exceedingly pure single tagli in a room which was also entirely white and in which the cuts were the only superficial "cracks" bearing an evident revealing conceptual and metaphysical significance (66 T 35...). White represented, as we know, for Fontana the "purest, least complicated, most understandable colour," that which most immediately struck the note of "pure simplicity," "pure philosophy," "spatial philosophy," "cosmic philosophy" to which Fontana more than ever aspired during the last years of his life'
(J. van der Marck & E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Vol. I, Brussels, 1974, p. 137).
Executed on a rare large-scale, Lucio Fontana's Concetto spaziale, Attese is an exquisite white monochrome tagli, penetrated with three precise, vertical slashes. These cuts, each over a metre long, immortalise the physical act of their creation, Fontana using the full length of his arm and force of his gesture to score through the expansive canvas. Fontana created Concetto spaziale, Attese in 1966, and it was shown the same year as part of a grand installation in the Italian pavilion at the XXXIII Venice Biennale. This installation, entitled the Ambiente Spaziale showcased Fontana taking his iconic gesture of the cut canvas to a new level of ambition. Created in collaboration with the architect Carlo Scarpa, Fontana envisaged a white, luminous maze, filled with examples of his Tagli, the iconic cuts for which he is perhaps best known, acting as a conceptual counterpoint to the gilded oeuvre presented at the Venice Biennale in 1961. As Fontana explained to Pierre Restany: 'I wanted to create a "spatial environment", by which I mean an environmental structure, a preliminary journey in which the "slits" would be as if in a labyrinth containing blanks of the same shape and colour but with one single laceration' (Fontana, quoted in S. Whitfield, Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., London, 1999, p. 200). Following Fontana's acclaimed installation at the Biennale, he won the International Grand Prize for Painting, marking the height of his practice. Received only two years before his death, it paid tribute to Fontana's tireless and continuing ambition to shape the contemporary artistic landscape, as well as a valedictory plaudit for his enduring artistic legacy. Of this extraordinary collection of seven white paintings, two are now housed in museums: one in the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart and one in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Fontana completed Concetto Spaziale, Attese, in a series of premeditated iterations. Exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1966, the work first appeared with 'one single laceration' as intimated by its inscription, Attesa on the reverse. It constituted an integral part of the white architectural installation, representing one of almost identical, pure single-cuts 'inserted in box-like confessionals to accentuate their revelatory meaning' (J. van der Marck & E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Vol. I, Brussels, 1974, p. 141). Assembled together the tagli appeared almost monastic in their formal and abstract purity. It was this kind of transformative aesthetic that Fontana would later recreate for Documenta IV in Kassel in 1968, where he positioned a large, revelatory slash as the centre of a totally white room. As Fontana would later comment to Giorgio Bocca, in Venice '[I succeeded] in giving the spectator who looks at the painting an impression of spatial calm, of cosmic rigour, of serenity in infinity' (L. Fontana, quoted in E. Crispolti (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan, 2006, p. 105). This was an atmosphere that the artist's friend and fellow artist Yves Klein had also engendered in his 'Epoca Blu' at the Gallery Apollinaire, Milan, in January 1957. Klein's exhibition featured eleven identical monochrome, International Klein Blue canvases attached to rods twenty centimetres away from the walls of the gallery. This installation created a powerful optical effect, mediating a new experience of space.
Following the Biennale, Fontana in a rare, expressive act added two further balancing cuts to either side of his central laceration. In doing so, he intensified his concept, creating three shards of space instead of one. These multiple tagli are the supreme, elegant expressions of Fontana's Spatial aesthetic and beliefs, each serial penetration thrown into dramatic relief by the radiant white of the canvas. It is in this striking contrast, between the white of the surface and the darkness of the void, that Fontana's Spatial concept finds its best expression. In Concetto Spaziale, Attese, we are entering the realm of the immaterial, that dimension whole-heartedly embraced by Yves Klein in his exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery in April 1958. Klein conceived of an evacuated space, perfectly white in homage to the Void - a concept that resonated with Fontana's minimalist language of the monochrome tagli.
Concetto spaziale, Attese is a work that transcends the canvas and the formal qualities of painting. In creating the apparently simple gesture of the precise cut on canvas, Fontana aspired to a radical avant-garde art, responding to the new post-Galilean age of quantum physics and international space travel. Fontana had been particularly excited by events in the years preceding the Venice Biennale when Edward H. White II, an astronaut on Gemini 4, had become the first man to perform a spacewalk. He wrote to Enrico Crispolti on the occasion, underling the prescience of his own Spatial Art: 'I am pleased with man's "little trip" in space, between us and the non-figurative "imaginists", or half figurative and the other half what the client wants, etc. etc. now the break is also physical, they are on earth and we are in space, ca va? Are you with us?' (Fontana, letter to E. Crispolti, 12 April 1964, in quoted in ibid., p. 245). KA
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, Attese. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
signed, titled and inscribed 'l. fontana Concetto Spaziale ATTESE 1 + 1 -7480' (on the reverse), waterpaint on canvas, 31 7/8 x 21 3/8in. (81 x 54cm.). Executed in 1963-64. Estimate: £800,000 - £1,200,000($1,200,000 - $1,800,000). Price Realized £1,105,250 ($1,763,979)
Provenance: A gift from the artist circa 1965 and thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 63-64 T 19 (illustrated, p. 648).
Notes: 'We have entered the space age, man has discovered the distances between earth and the planets, man's goal is to conquer them, man with his inventions of the last one hundred years has sped humanity to achieve the impossible - all this has influenced the artist's creative spirit'
(L. Fontana, quoted in E. Crispolti & R. Siliganto, Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Milan, 1998, p. 146).
'Art is eternal, but it cannot be immortal, we plan to separate art from matter, to separate the sense of the eternal from the concern with the immortal. And it doesn't matter to us if a gesture, once accomplished, lives for a second or a millennium, for we are convinced that, having accomplished it, it is eternal'
(The First Spatial Manifesto signed by L. Fontana, G. Kaisserlian, B. Joppolo, M. Milani, reproduced in E. Crispolti & R. Siligato (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., 1998, pp. 117-118).
The unrivalled elegance of the gently curving incisions that migrate across the surface of Lucio Fontana's spectacular red Concetto spaziale, Attese are among the most graceful marks the artist ever made. The three incisions grow in length as they spread like ripples travelling across a mill pond and combined with the purity of the canvas's surface result in a work of exceptional beauty. Nestled into a canvas of sumptuous rich red with the seductive quality which recalls the evocative forms of the Baroque sculptor Bernini, these openings are not destructive slashes or cuts but instead are Fontana's response to the question that has obsessed every artist through the generations; how can art improve on what has gone before and continue to be relevant to the age in which it was created? Fontana's solution was to move away from using the canvas merely as a support for the medium of paint and instead incorporate it fully into the body of the work, thus opening up, both literally and figuratively, a whole new dimension of possibilities to further advance the course of art. The present work has been in the Minella family for over half a century and was originally a gift from the artist to the present owner's father, Signore Minella. He owned a florist's shop in the via Manzoni in Milan and counted Lucio Fontana as one of his customers. Signore Minella's shop was situated close to the influential Galleria del Naviglio and attracted many important Italian artists who would often stop by the flower shop on their way to and from the gallery. As well as owning the shop, Signore Minella also undertook private work in the gardens of his customers and it was after working in Fontana's garden in Comabbio that the artist gave Signore Minella the present work in heartfelt appreciation of all his efforts. The fact that such a remarkable painting has remained in the family for over half a century is testament to the affection in which it has been held and the strong relationship between the two men.
As the founder of the post-war Spatialist movement, Fontana was concerned with freeing artists from the constraints of artistic tradition. As the space age dawned and the world became dominated by the jet age, Fontana wanted to create art for a new era; art that would show the real space of the world. His solution was to break through the surface of the canvas and for the first time introduce a third dimension into the world of painting. Like portals to another dimension his incisions began to explore a hitherto unexplored world akin to the unchartered territories of the cosmos. Concetto spaziale, Attese is a perfect evocation of Fontana's objectives with its delicate cuts echoing the vastness of the universe. Behind each one, lies the darkness of an infinite space, full of possibilities and mystery. With deliberate flicks of the wrist Fontana produces his elegant incisions which literally open the canvas to new possibilities and interpretations. Enforcing the three-dimensional nature of the canvas, Fontana brings his earlier incarnation as a sculptor to the practice of painting, combining its different processes to forge a hybrid object that is no longer constrained by traditional classifications.
The importance of Fontana's background as a sculptor is clear in his decision to transform the canvas from a two-dimensional surface into a three-dimensional object. Furthermore, with his Concetto spaziale, Attese he is not only transforming the canvas but in addition, Fontana incorporates the physical act of cutting into the work so it becomes an important part of the artistic process. These two tangible forces come to be Fontana's medium and support and the graceful gesture becomes his equivalent of using the brush on the surface of the canvas. There is a degree of beauty in the precision with which Fontana arrives at the results; no mess, no hesitation, just cool, controlled movement produced with scientific clarity. The cleanliness of the act bringing about an almost religious purity.
Fontana's sublimely beautiful Concetto spaziale, Attese is a triumphal exploration of the totality of artistic practice. In Fontana's skilled hands, the canvas is opened up to extraordinary new depths of meaning and beauty. There are no distractions; instead Fotanta has given us something that is emphatic, lending it a palpable sense of honesty and truth. The holistic nature of this luxurious red canvas succeeds in demonstrating the timeless beauty of art, fulfilling the dreams that Fontana had prophesied nearly two decades earlier when he laid the foundations for the Spatialist Movement, as he said at the time, 'Art is eternal, but it cannot be immortal,' the First Spatial Manifesto had declared, 'We plan to separate art from matter, to separate the sense of the eternal from the concern with the immortal. And it doesn't matter to us if a gesture, once accomplished, lives for a second or a millennium, for we are convinced that, having accomplished it, it is eternal' (signed by L. Fontana, G. Kaisserlian, B. Joppolo, M. Milani, reproduced in E. Crispolti & R. Siligato (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh.cat., 1998, pp. 117-18). SJ
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, Attesa. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
signed, titled and inscribed 'l. fontana "Concetto Spaziale ATTESA" Oggi vado dal Dottore a farmi visitare, para el amigo Soto ciao' (on the reverse), waterpaint on canvas, 25¾ x 21¼in. (65.5 x 54cm.). Executed in 1964. Estimate £800,000 - £1,200,000 ($1,200,000 - $1,800,000). Price Realized £914,850 ($1,460,101)
Provenance: Jesús Rafael Soto (a gift from the artist).
Galerie Pierre, Stockholm.
Private Collection, Milan.
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 16 October 2006, lot 236.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Property from a Distinguished Private Collector
Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 64 T 42 (illustrated, p. 153).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 64 T 42 (illustrated, p. 523).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 64 T 42 (illustrated, p. 713).
Exhibited: Stockholm, Galerie Pierre, Fontana, 1971, no. 14 (illustrated).
Notes: Executed in 1964, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa is the perfect expression of Lucio Fontana's Spatialist concept. Previously owned by the Venezuelan artist and major proponent of Op Art, Jesus Rafael Soto, it embodies the zero point or lacuna of painting. Rendered through one tight, vertical incision on a virgin white canvas, the painting no longer acts as a carrier of narrative or illustrative meaning, but as an active element in the redefinition of space and time. Situated perfectly along the central vertical axis of the pristine painting, Fontana's immaculate taglie or cut offers up a new dimension, what he referred to as a 'free space' stretching out beyond the picture plane. This concept was intended to make the viewer look beyond the physical reality of painting and to introduce a sense of time, light and space into an otherwise flat canvas. Resonating with the language of the Futurist manifesto, Fontana's pioneering gesture hoped to embody the dynamism of modern man, accelerated by the innovations of technology and science at the onset of a new Nuclear age.
Fontana emerged in 1947 as a leading proponent of the European avant-garde, eschewing the materiality of recent practice in favour of a new metaphysical approach. This was underscored by a manifesto published the preceding year entitled the Manifesto Bianco, which called for an 'art based on the unity of time and space' (Manifesto Blanco, Buenos Aires 1946, reproduced in E. Crispolti et al. (eds.), Lucio Fontana, Milan 1998, p. 116). Fontana had been watching the innovations of space travel and quantum physics with fascination and considered existing modes of painting and sculpture out-dated and unable to reflect the accelerated process of contemporary change. One of the first to appreciate the ramifications of such radical developments, he eagerly sought to find a means of expressing it within art. As he wrote in his Technical Manifesto of 1951, 'the discovery of new physical powers, the conquest of matter and space gradually impose on man conditions which have never existed beforethe application of these discoveries to the various forms of life brings about a substantial transformation in our way of thinking. The painted surface, the erected stone, no longer have a meaning' (Technical Manifesto, reproduced in J. Van der Marck, 'The Spatial Concept of Art', Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Minneapolis, 1966).
Fontana's solution entailed the penetration of a canvas with a vertical tagli or punctured bucchi (hole) to create a three-dimensional object, existing in real space. In Concetto Spaziale, Attesa, one of the most pure examples of this practice, the artist's hand has violently breached the pristine white canvas with one long cut, the moment of its creation forever immortalised through its surface. As the artist once expounded, '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 in E. Crispolti et al. (eds.), Lucio Fontana, Milan 1998, pp. 117-118).
For Fontana, the practice of creating the tagli was deeply premeditated, the artist ruminating on his approach for hours, or even days. As he once explained, 'they think it's easy to make a cut or a hole, but it's not true. You have no idea how much stuff I throw away. The idea has to be realised with precision' (Lucio Fontana quoted in G. Ballo, Lucio Fontana, New York 1971, p. 45, quoted in S. Whitfield (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1999-2000, p. 42). As chronicled in the famous series of photographs taken by Ugo Mulas in the artist's studio, Fontana would prepare himself, standing erect at some distance from the easel, until he could muster the appropriate physical and mental concentration. As he told Mulas at the time, 'I really have to be in the right mood to perform this task' (Lucio Fontana quoted in U. Mulas, La Fotografia, Turin 1973 quoted in S. Whitfield (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1999-2000, p. 31). The cut itself, was enacted in a sequence, first by saturating the canvas in white emulsion paint allowing it to partially dry, and then by making a small incision with a Stanley knife to be dragged down the full length of the canvas. The canvas would then firm and dry out with time, the cut having been eased apart with the flat of the artist's hand. One of Fontana's close friends described this gesture as a 'caress', the artist tenderly working on the canvas and physically engaging it to gently open each furl.
For Fontana, the single abstract tagli was not a destructive act, but a creative exploration of the possibilities of art. The cut was to reveal the mysteries of light, 'the most intense moment of luminosity [occurring] at the point where the slightly curving planes at each side of the cut meet the slit of dark space' (G. Celant quoted in S. Whitfield (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1999-2000, p. 42). He also sought to depict movement through his work, an ambition shared with the pre-war Italian Futurists, who had proudly declared in their first manifesto: '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). Through the apparently simple gesture of striking through the canvas, Fontana remarkably achieved both, permitting air and light to penetrate through it, forever engaging its surface.
Fontana embraced the metaphysical enquiry of his time. As he once concluded, 'Einstein's discovery of the cosmos is the infinite dimension, without end. And so here we have: foreground, middleground and background... to go farther what do I have to do?... I make holes, infinity passes through them, light passes through them, there is no need to paint' (Lucio Fontana, quoted in E. Crispolti, 'Spatialism and Informel: The Fifties' pp. 144-150, E. Crispolti & R. Siligato (eds.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Milan, 1998, p. 146). KA
Christie's. Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 28 June 2011, London, King Street www.christies.com