Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968) Concetto spaziale, Attese 1960

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Lot 12AR
Lucio Fontana
(Italian, 1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale, Attese

Sold for £ 356,312 (US$ 491,159) inc. premium
Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale, Attese

signed, titled and inscribed 1+1-77AA on the reverse
waterpaint on canvas

22 by 33.5 cm.
8 11/16 by 13 3/16 in.

This work was executed in 1960.


  • This work is registered in the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, under no. 4234/2, and is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity.

    Private Collection, Italy
    Private Collection, Italy (by descent from the above)
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    A work of pure chromatic intensity, broken only by the artist's iconic and revolutionary gesture of piercing the canvas with a rhythmic chorus of cuts, Lucio Fontana's Concetto spaziale, Attese (1960) is a sterling demonstration of the artist's serene incisions that crowned him one of the most important and influential artists of the Twentieth Century. Leaving a legacy that irreversibly transformed the philosophical and technical preconceptions of Modern painting, the present work is an exceptional example of Fontana's period-defining tagli (cuts) that he began in 1958, making this one of the earliest monochrome variations to be painted in waterpaint, with works from previous years executed with aniline.

    The gorgeous yellow hue, unmistakably incised four times, radiates from a rich, matte surface over a canvas whose dimensions elevate the delicacy, precision and drama of the artist's quintessential gesture. Fresh to the market, Concetto spaziale, Attese is a particularly beautiful example of Fontana's tagli that can boast such an elegant composition, size and colour. As one of the most groundbreaking artists of the Modernist period, his work is held in museum collections around the world, including the Tate collection, London, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Argentina, and the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome.

    Born in Argentina in 1899 before moving to Italy in 1905, Fontana was an artist who was deeply moved and inspired by the scientific breakthroughs of his day whose self-invented philosophy went beyond the horizons of contemporary art. For Fontana, painting had to adapt to the new conditions of exploration that he saw in the quickening Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s, namely: going beyond the 'surface' in order to break through to another dimension. Surviving the immense turbulence of Europe between two world wars, Fontana's tagli, furthermore, can undoubtedly be read as going beyond reality – beyond the horrors and shared histories, events and beliefs that painting had for so long traditionally upheld.

    By cutting through the canvas, Fontana tears painting from its realist, representative form and opens up an abstracted dimension that is to be found – quite literally – within the canvas. In the radiant surface of the present work, the tension between the golden, incandescent canvas and the plunging depths of the four exquisite incisions confers upon the work a sanguine air of exuberance; an undeniable brilliance that is unique to a work as precise as Concetto spaziale, Attese. Belying its size, the radiant surface of the present work conjures the shimmering golden light of the sun that became an idée fixe for Fontana – captivated by the infinite space lying just beyond the reach of humanity. Titled 'spatial concept, expectations', Fontana's enduring project that proposes a new method and concept of space in painting – beyond the illusionistic – takes on a transcendental slant; pausing, expecting, waiting to breach the cusp of the artist's self-created dimension.

    As the founder of the Spazialismo movement in 1947, Fontana was a consummate wordsmith, producing a series of manifestos and essays that established the conceptual logic behind his practice. He wrote, in his 1946 Manifiesto blanco, "the discovery of new physical forces and the control of matter and space will gradually impose new conditions that have not been previously known to man in the entirety of the course of history. The application of these discoveries to all of the modalities of life will produce a modification in the nature of man. Man will take on a new psychic structure" (the artist in: Guido Ballo, L. Fontana: Idea per un ritratto, New York 1971, p. 186). Fontana's writings attest to his fundamental interest in changing the aesthetic parameters that he felt must remain in-step with the contemporary concerns of scientific and philosophical enquiry. The artist's unrivalled combination of technicality, aesthetics and intellect drove him to produce arguably the most evocative and unmistakable series of works in his tagli.

    Elegant, chic and a wholly original, Fontana's sensational, almost choreographed gestures share a performative resonance with the likes of Jackson Pollock and Yves Klein, whose capitalising of the flat picture plane – throwing, dripping and impressing paint upon it – anointed them the avant-gardes of their day. Fontana's tagli, however, combine the monochrome surface with the gesture, piercing the canvas and boldly breaking with the conventions of 'flatness' in a completely novel process, producing one of the most dramatic aesthetic leaps of the period that proved so influential for the Dutch Nul and German ZERO groups.

    Whilst Fontana had been puncturing the canvas prior to his tagli in his buchi (holes) paintings, it was not until he instituted his monochrome cuts with a blade that his work takes on a serene, violent and beautiful quality. The enigmatic sweeps of the blade in the present work creates a symphony of diagonals that waver and amplify across the canvas, an effect that is only truly observed in Fontana's tagli with at least four slashes.

    A perfect balance of size, colour and number of cuts, Concetto spaziale, Attese is a majestic painting from the first two years of Fontana's productions of tagli, and one of the earliest produced in waterpaint. A canvas that commands a profundity and prowess in its absolute simplicity and evocation of radiant sunlight over divided shadows, it affirms Fontana's hugely important and influential position as one of the Twentieth Century's most revolutionary artists.
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