Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968) Concetto Spaziale 1952
Lot 5AR
Lucio Fontana
(Italian, 1899-1968)
Concetto Spaziale
Sold for £ 770,500 (US$ 1,082,559) inc. premium

Lot Details
Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968)
Concetto Spaziale

signed and dated 53 on the reverse
oil on canvas

59 by 80 cm.
23 1/4 by 31 1/2 in.

This work was executed in 1952.


  • This work is registered in the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan under no. 1499/1.

    Centro Arte Brera, Milan
    Galería Juana Mordó, Madrid
    Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, Bruxelles 1974, vol. II, pp. 28-29, no. 52 B 14, illustrated in black and white
    Enrico Crispolti, Fontana. Catalogo Generale, Milano 1986, vol. I, p. 110, no. 52 B 14, illustrated in black and white
    Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Milano 2006, vol. I, p. 244, no. 52 B 14, illustrated in black and white

    Concetto Spaziale, 1952 is a striking constellation of holes that are scattered across the soft red surface of the canvas, appearing to be both accidental and carefully organized at the same time. Executed in 1952, this work is an early example of the Buchi series started by Lucio Fontana in 1949 to explore the sculptural qualities of paintings, experimenting with space, time and light.

    Born in Argentina, Fontana grew up in Italy and went back to spend the World War II in Argentina, where in 1946 he published the Manifesto Blanco with first ideas on Spatialism, lifting 'spatial' qualities of art above the visual and aesthetic ones. After the war, Fontana came back to Italy and in 1947 published the Manifesto dello Spazialismo. His groundbreaking way of thinking and seeing art changed its previously accepted boundaries and ways of seeing and understanding art. Specifically, the first half of the Twentieth Century saw the cultural landscape in the West change dramatically with the advancement of science, which in many respects replaced religion. Fontana reacted to this new world with art that was created across and almost irrespective of the artistic media: just as new vistas of the ground were available from airplanes and the Earth was visible from outer space, so too was Fontana looking for a new way of using and seeing the canvas, inviting the viewer to see the work from a new angle, and approaching a painting as if it were a sculpture. Fontana's studio in Milan had been destroyed in the war, and as with many artists of that period - this destruction lingered on in his work.
    The visceral shock of the action of piercing (and later slashing) the canvas is certainly a result of the post-war realities. However, Fontana's technique of using holes will become his signature, as visible later on in the Barocchi, Pietre, Olii and Teatrini series, giving him the freedom to go beyond the artistic medium and being free to open both the metaphysical space and the sculptural aspect of the painting. "I did not make holes in order to wreck the picture. On the contrary, I made holes in order to find something else." (artist quoted in T. Trini, "The last interview given by Fontana", pp. 34-36, W. Beeren & N. Serota (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exg. cat. Amsterdam & London, 1988, p.34) Equally important to making the hole was the process of creation - by puncturing the canvas, Fontana was able to break free from the confines of the stretcher and canvas and carve in pure space.

    Concetto Spaziale, 1952 is littered with holes of different sizes, at times large and at times so small they are barely noticeable, just like the stars when we look at the night sky - some shine bright and others are almost invisible, resembling fine white dust. For Fontana, these penetrations - whether they were just a whirl, or carefully arranged and executed holes - were a passage into the unknown. The surface of Concetto Spaziale, 1952 painted in thick oil might be warm red, but its heart is black, echoing vast outer space. Fontana himself photographed the Buchi works with the light coming through the holes, evoking luminous stars and the cosmos and producing works that almost served as portals into space and time.

    Concetto Spaziale, 1952 was created in a period in Fontana's career when he was at his most experimental - he had freshly started creating Buchi and was to start with the slashes soon, and all the while he continued to work as a sculptor, his original artistic practice which he learned from his father. It was in many ways inevitable that Fontana would push his canvases beyond their inherent two-dimensionality and create them as neither painting nor sculpture, but original creations, practically breaking the canons of the history of art in the process. This is an artist at the height of his creative power and spatial exploration, looking at every canvas like it was a new beginning, engaging with it, thinking and painting it - the background with the brush, and the subject matter with the awl.

    Fontana's canvases are highly intellectual, they command the viewer to walk away from them, around them and closely into them in order to see beyond their surface, like we do when we look at the dark night sky and contemplate its limits, imagining the invisible and transporting ourselves to a different realm though the light reflections projected from stars. Concetto Spaziale, 1952 encapsulates all these phenomena - a swirling constellation of holes that takes us into a different reality and in the process transforms our viewing experience and our mind into the new dimension. The holes in Concetto Spaziale, 1952 are carefully 'painted' across the canvas, letting our eyes circulate over them and our mind wander beyond the blackness which they conceal. Lucio Fontana is currently the subject of a major and extremely well received retrospective at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, with more than 200 works on view to celebrate this visionary and revolutionary artist, and whose work forms part of the most important public and private collections.
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