Lucio Fontana - 20th Century to Now London Friday, June 30, 2023 | Phillips

    Lucio Fontana | A Delicate Violence

    “I make a hole in a canvas in order to leave behind the old pictorial formula, the painting and the traditional view of art I escape symbolically, but also materially from the prison of the flat surface.”
    —Lucio Fontana

    Lucio Fontana first employed his signature Buchi in the first sequence of Concetto spaziale created in 1949. Perforating the smooth linen surface with an awl to create hollows in the canvas, the artist broke all preconceptions surrounding the two-dimensional painted surface and, in turn, radically altered the canvas’s relationship to both spectator and environment. The unbroken surface was now compromised, liberating the artwork from its two dimensional boundaries and allowing the surrounding space to pas dynamically through it - becoming a part of the work in the process. Inviting viewers to do the same, these perforations allow us to conceptualise a new spatial dimension, our perception moving beyond the limits of the canvas  as both the seeing eye and thinking self are engulfed by an evocation of the infinite unknown that operates on both a material and conceptual level.

    “…the discovery of the cosmos is a new dimension, it is infinite; so I made a hole in the canvas, which was at the root of all the arts, and I created an infinite dimension”
    —Lucio Fontana

    The present work marks a shift in Fontana’s practise as his Buchi began to adopt a more structured, geometric arrangement, ‘clearly and neatly distributed in figurations similar to ellipses, recalling a system of orbital traces or more precise essential and concentric circles.’i Created just five years after Yuri Gagarin’s initial voyage into space, and three years prior to the moon landing, it is hard to deny the work’s figurative allusions to the infinite, expanding universe. Through its constellatory arrangement of openings, Concetto spaziale epitomises the energy and excitement of the mid-century Space Race as humankind made their own leap into the space beyond the known world, the apertures of Fontana’s buchi recast like the pinpricks of stars burning millions of light years away as they appear set within the heavy night sky. This sense of deep time is echoed too in the iconic red selected by Fontana for this Concetto spaziale. Arguably the most coveted shade in Fontana’s repertoire, this bold shade also recalls the chalky ochre tones that survive in the cave paintings of Lascaux and Chauvet– the oldest known examples of cave art and visual culture in Europe. When looking into Concetto spaziale we sense the sublime; transcending time and space we peer forwards and backwards, gazing into something which is also, at the same time, nothing. Momentarily arrested, we are forever changed by Fontana’s ‘infinite dimension.’ii



    i Luca Massimo Barbero, ‘The invention of the sign: Lucio Fonana’, in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Tornabuoni Art, London, 2015, p. 58.

    ii Lucio Fontana, quoted in, Carla Lonzi, Autoritratto, Milan, 1969, p. 169.

    • Provenance

      Collection of Emilio Arditti, Paris (acquired directly from the artist)
      Private Collection
      Christie's, London, 6 March 2018, lot 43
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Literature

      Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels, 1974, no. 66-67 B 1, p. 148 (illustrated)
      Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan, 1986, no. 66-67 B 1, p. 506 (illustrated)
      Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazione, vol. II, Milan, 2006, no. 66-67 B 1, p. 695 (illustrated)



Concetto spaziale

signed 'l. Fontana' lower right; signed and titled 'l. Fontana "Concetto Spaziale"' on the reverse
waterpaint on canvas
100.3 x 81.2 cm (39 1/2 x 31 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1966-1967.

Full Cataloguing

£550,000 - 750,000 ‡♠

Sold for £571,500

Contact Specialist

Leonor de Osma
Head of Sale, 20th Century to Now
T +44 20 7901 7912
M +44 7584 086 052

20th Century to Now

London Auction 30 June 2023