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£1,000,000 - 1,500,000 ♠
sold for £1,025,000
Galleria Paolo Seno, Milan
Private Collection, Italy (acquired from the above circa 1970)
Thence by descent to the previous owner
Sotheby's, London, 15 October 2015, lot 13
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Milan, Galleria Paolo Seno, Fontana, 1973, no. 17 (illustrated)
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Brussels, 1974, no.61 O 15, p. 108 (illustrated)
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, Milan, 1986, no. 61 O 15, p. 364 (illustrated)
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan, 2006, no. 61 O 15, p. 548 (illustrated)
An exceptional, radiant example of Lucio Fontana’s pioneering approach to painting, Concetto Spaziale, through the juxtaposition of the destroyed plane, the relief of the Murano glass and the reflective, textured surface, transports the viewer toward the spirit of Venice. Protruding from the core of the canvas, the red Murano glass stones geographically link Concetto Spaziale, to the lagoon city whilst the swirling vortices of metallic paint visually link Concetto Spaziale to the sensuous richness of Venice. Moving beyond his characteristic destruction of the plane and penetration of the canvas, Fontana has built up the foundations, the thick swirling silver impasto, moving out toward the relief of the suspended Murano glass. Through harmonious layers, experimentally applied by hand and with the use of a paintbrush end, Fontana adds a sensuous touch to the surface of the work.
Concerned with the perception of space and penning the first Spatialist manifesto in 1947, Fontana claimed that future scientific and technical advances would alter artistic foundations and embrace spatial and horological innovations. Notably breaking through the planes of vision, the third dimension of Fontana’s work is revealed, exposing the dynamism of painting, distinct from sculpture and yet sculptural in its excellence. ‘I called all my paintings spatial concepts (because) they are neither paintings or sculptures' (Lucio Fontana in Lawrence Alloway, ‘Commentary' to ‘Technical Manifesto given at the Ist International Congress of Proportion at the IXth Triennale, Milan, 1947', Ark, Winter 1959, pp. 4 - 7). First experimenting with the spatiality of the plane in 1948, the artist began puncturing his canvases. The hand chipped segments of glass are reminiscent of the monumental yet delicate Byzantine mosaics of St Mark’s cathedral and the manmade architectural tradition of Venice, a city built on wooden foundations.
Directly preceding the Venice series in Enrico Crispolti’s Catalogue Raisonné, the present work can be viewed as a precursory investigation into the canals of the city, the model for Fontana’s homage to Venice executed in the same year. In 1961, the exceptional series of 22 works dedicated to the city that inspired their creation, the homage to Venice, were created for Michel Tapié’s exhibition at Palazzo Grassi Arte e Contemplazione and exhibited alongside works by Mark Rothko, Antoni Tapies, Sam Francis and Jean Dubuffet. The works, each 150 x 150 cm in size, celebrate ‘the island of art, of accomplishment, of international encounter’ (Luca Massimo Barbero in Lucio Fontana: Venice/ New York, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2006, p. 27). Seven of the works subsequently travelled to Martha Jackson Gallery in New York, where they were exhibited alongside three new works, becoming Ten Paintings of Venice at the end of 1961. Widely travelled and internationally esteemed, Fontana’s radiant canvases which mirror the merchant city of Venice, in turn reflect Concetto Spaziale which predicated the celebrated series.
The shimmering silver surface invokes the glistening moonlight refracting from the canals of the lagoon city, whilst the vivid vortices of paint allude to the baroque whorls of Venetian churches. ‘Even my holes, which could even be Baroque...’ (Lucio Fontana in Italo Tomassoni, Per una ipotesi barocca, Rome 1963, p. 53). Revelling in rich textures, sumptuous surface ornamentation and overtly aesthetic free forms, Concetto Spaziale, like the later Venice pictures, directly references the Baroque tradition. ‘If the Baroque…was historically a period of high moral tension, and if its forms, in perpetual instable germination, are the fruit of an existential state of artists faced by an instable fickle century, in which every circumstance or belief was subject to swift change, then the Venices are Baroque' (Luca Massimo Barbero in Lucio Fontana: Venice/ New York, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2006, pp. 29-30).
Unequivocally distinct from the work of Venetian masters, Titian, Tintoretto and Canaletto, Concetto Spaziale maintains the quality for which the northern Italian masters were so celebrated; Fontana’s masterful presentation of light captures the reflective splendour of the Old Masters. Displaying dimensionality through the layering of materials, Concetto Spaziale combines the most celebrated aspects across Fontana’s oeuvre. The vortex of paint marks the crescendo of Fontana’s Olii works, oil works on canvas. Spanning 1961 – 1962, the Olii, to which both the present lot and the Venice series belong, are united in their dense paint and perforated surfaces. Besetting the canvas with fragments of colour, the Murano stones draw back on the artist’s experimentations in the 1950s with his Pietre series presented at the 7th Rome Quadrennial in 1955, whereby the canvas was extended beyond the space of the image into the real time space of the viewer.
Exceptionally composed, Concetto Spaziale captures the tranquil vastness of the silvered reflection of the moon in the Venetian lagoons, whist maintaining Fontana’s discourse with the conceptual and physical limitations of painterly space. Carefully and extraordinarily composed, the work radically breaks with artistic tradition, pushing the boundaries of the plane, time and space whilst simultaneously celebrating custom and exalting the byzantine splendour of Venice. Concetto Spaziale flawlessly condenses Lucio Fontana’s era-defining theory of Spazialismo and its exploration into new dimensions of human understanding.
£1,000,000 - 1,500,000 ♠
sold for £1,025,000
London Auction 29 June 2017