Lucio Fontana - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 21, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Rendered with natural simplicity, Lucio Fontana’s ceramic Concetto spaziale demonstrates, in sculptural form, the artist’s formal preoccupation with the infinite. A concern that would dictate the entirety of his career, Fontana was intent upon exploring the spatiality of his works. Concerned not only with the material substantiality of the works themselves but also the space that they occupy and beyond, Fontana’s sculptures were sliced, slashed, gouged and punctured in his pursuit of the dissimilation of the boundaries between the dimensions of matter, space and time. In the present work, the two holes or buchi pierce the reflective surface of the spherical work, perforating the otherwise wholeness to reveal a space within that is neither a physical part of the sculpture, nor distinct from it: they are voids.


    Significant advances in science and technology - notably developments in space travel and our subsequent proximity to the cosmos - had a profound influence on Fontana’s artistic perspective. The apparent simplicity of the form of Concetto spaziale is in fact loaded with philosophical and cultural significance. As the artist explains, 'I was thinking of those worlds, of the moon with these… holes, this terrible silence that causes us anguish, and the astronauts in a new world. And so… in the artist’s fantasy… these immense things have been there for billions of years… man arrives, in mortal silence, in this anguish, and leaves a vital sign of his arrival… were these not still forms with a sign of wanting to make inert matter live?' i The punctures in the ovoid sculpture – a global form is further accentuated by an equatorial seam that spans its diameter - draw our attention not only to the raw materiality of the piece, but the space that lies beyond the physical matter, and the emptiness that invades it, much like a planet within a celestial vacuum.
    Having trained as a sculptor under professor Adolf Wildt in the late twenties, Fontana was working at the apex of Italy’s exploits in ceramic production. Much like the work of Constantin Brâncuși, Fontana’s deliberate and reductive use of abstraction emphasises the essentials of meaning and form. Unlike Brâncuși however, whose gleaming sculptures are notoriously faultless in their execution, Fontana’s pieces are decidedly organic in form, the mottled patina of the ceramic bearing the marks of its creator.  Punctured by the prominent incisions to its side, in the present work conceptual gravitas and essential form take precedent over immaculate finish.
    Concetto spaziale is a stunning example of Fontana’s investigation into Spatialism, and his solution to the problem of representing infinite space through sculpture. The buchi in the surface constitute a physical and symbolic glimpse into another dimension: 'the discovery of the cosmos is a new dimension, it is infinity … the hole is, precisely, creating this void behind there … Einstein’s discovery of the cosmos is the infinite dimension, without end … I make holes, infinity passes through them, there is no need to paint.' ii


    i Lucio Fontana, quoted in Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. I, Milan, 2015, p. 73
    ii Lucio Fontana, quoted in Enrico Crispolti, ‘On the Creative Adventure of Lucio Fontana’, Lucio Fontana: paintings, sculpture and drawings, Milan, 2005, p. 27

    • Provenance

      Galerie Zwirner, Cologne
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      T. Labranca, 'La trascendenza si fa materia', K-International Ceramic Magazine, 3 April 1988, p. 64 (illustrated)


Concetto spaziale

signed 'L. Fontana' on the underside
coloured glazed ceramic with holes and graffito
28.5 x 25 x 25 cm (11 1/4 x 9 7/8 x 9 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1962-64, this work is registered with the Fondazione Lucio Fontana under the archive no. 3777/1.

Full Cataloguing

£50,000 - 60,000 ‡♠

Sold for £63,000

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Director

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 21 October 2020