Lucio Fontana - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Created in 1955, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale demonstrates the artist’s preoccupation with the notion of space as defined within a composition. Adopting painting as his preferred medium between 1949 and 1955, the present work is a late example of Fontana’s distinct buchi series – canvases with punctured holes, which he began around 1950. Similarly, the work is part of his gessi series, translating to “chalks,” which commenced between 1954 and 1958, using chalk-like textures to blur the lines of his forms and allude to something otherworldly. Combining these two techniques, Concetto spaziale reflects the artist’s attempt to explore a realm beyond the physical, revolutionizing the relationships of space, form, infinity and materiality in art.

     “As a painter working on one of my prepared canvases, I don’t want to make a picture, I want to open up space, to create a new dimension for art, to connect it up with the cosmos as it lies infinitely outstretched, beyond the flat surface or the image. By inventing the hole through the canvas, by its repeated use, I did not want to ‘decorate’ a surface—on the contrary, I tried to smash the dimensions which limit it.” 
    —Lucio Fontana

    Windows to the Cosmos


    Arranging the puncture holes in the canvas in a somewhat orderly sequence, the present work explores Fontana’s fascination with the idea of his so-called “spatial concepts.” In his buchi works, the artist is thought to be alluding to faraway galaxies, in an effort to illustrate a further, deeper sense of space. This interpretation defines the holes as small windows into another realm. The luminous, earth-toned orange set against a deep black night sky become the Earth and space, and the punctures windows through which to break the boundaries between them. The expansive hues rendering the composition place the viewer within this imagined environment, and the chalky, blurred edges of the gessi orb bring the unfamiliar yet intriguing element of space further into reality. Through this, Fontana experiments with the materiality and texture of the oil paint to illustrate the undulating world of space.


    Manifesto Blanco


    Fontana considers his art beyond the threshold of painting, experimenting with different kinds of mark-making to explore the notions of space, motion and dynamism. Authoring the Manifiesto Blanco in 1946, Fontana defined a new type of art, detached from the conventions of painting and connected to the dimensions of time and space. Abandoning “the practice of known art forms and [embarking] on the development of an art based on the unity of time and space,” Fontana’s aim in this manifesto would give way to the artist’s signature practice, later developing into his well-known series of slash paintings, beginning in the mid-1950s and continuing through the rest of his life.i


    Lucio Fontana, Milan, 1963. Image: Ugo Mulas © Ugo Mulas Heirs. All rights reserved



    i Lucio Fontana, quoted in Angela Sanna, ed., “Manifesti Scritti Interviste,” Abscondita, 2015, Milan, p. 47.

    • Provenance

      Paolo Marinotti, Milan
      R. Toninelli, Rome
      Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne
      Private Collection
      Christie’s, London, July 1, 2008, lot 215
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Lucio Fontana: Bilder / Paintings, September–November 1988, no. 10, pp. 10–11 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environments spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels, 1974, no. 55 G 9, p. 54 (illustrated)
      Enrico Crispolti, Fontana Catalolgo generale, vol. I, Milan, 1986, no. 55 G 9, p. 187 (illustrated)
      Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. I, Milan, 2006, no. 55 G 9, p. 343 (illustrated)

Property from a Notable Private Collector


Concetto spaziale

signed and dated "L. Fontana 55" lower right; signed, titled and dated "L. Fontana Concetto spaziale 1955" on the reverse
oil and pencil on canvas
36 7/8 x 28 7/8 in. (93.7 x 73.3 cm)
Executed in 1955.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $482,600

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023