Salvatore Scarpitta - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, June 26, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Salvatore Scarpitta, 'Franz's Ferrari', Lot 16

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 27 June 2019

  • Provenance

    Galleria Ippolito Simonis, Turin
    Private Collection, Turin
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995

  • Exhibited

    Milan, Galleria dell’Ariete, Scarpitta 1958-1963, 23 October 1964, no. 10
    Turin, Galleria Ippolito Simonis, Salvatore Scarpitta, 1987, n.p. (illustrated)
    Bagheria, Civica Galleria Renato Guttuso, Scarpitta, 9 May - 31 August 1999, no. 55, p. 144 (illustrated, p. 95)

  • Literature

    Il Giornale dell’Arte, November 1987, p. 45 (illustrated)
    La Repubblica delle Donne, 22 June 1999, p. 98 (illustrated)
    Stile, July 1999, p. 26 (illustrated)
    Luigi Sansone, Salvatore Scarpitta, Catalogue Raisonné, Milan, 2005, no, 303, p. 183 (illustrated, p. 338)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed in 1961, Franz’s Ferrari is a quintessential iteration of Salvatore Scarpitta’s series of bandaged canvases commenced in the late 1950s. Standing halfway between painting and sculpture, the present work epitomises the artist’s progression towards the latter medium in 1964, when he began building fully-functioning vehicles as artistic installations. Passionate about motor racing, Scarpitta was the owner of a sprint car team based in New Chester, Pennsylvania, and regularly attended and participated in races with the generous support of his crew sponsor – the Leo Castelli Gallery. In Franz’s Ferrari, the artist merges artistic gesture and automobile culture, through the work's industrial appearance, but also through its evocative name, referring to the silver-gray Ferrari that the artist Franz Kline had bought towards the end of his life. Kline’s newly purchased Ferrari signified the advent of his success following years of relative obscurity; he and Scarpitta shared a friendship that derived from the flawlessly eclectic artistic roster Leo Castelli was continuing to build throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

    Throughout his career, Scarpitta ripped, twisted, and laid bare his canvases to create subversive works of which the method and aesthetic eschewed traditional principles of painting. He broke free from prevailing constrictions that had been held through centuries of painterly production, and instead produced complex assemblages comprising layered textures and striking three-dimensionality. Leo Castelli, Scarpitta’s gallerist and champion from 1958 to 1999, claimed that ‘Salvatore does not reach the waves, he swims on his own’ (Leo Castelli, quoted by Salvatore Scarpitta in Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, ‘In Primo Piano’, Flash Art, 21 July 2015, online). A resourceful, independent and iconoclastic spirit, Scarpitta likened his works to armors and shields, conjuring the syntax of wartime kits in ways that resembled Alberto Burri’s fraught constructions – or deconstructions – equally employing ingenious methods of stitching and burning, knotting and bandaging.

    Woven with webbed fabric and wrought with physical tension, Franz’s Ferrari is redolent of the medical clothes used in childbirth which Scarpitta found in army surplus stores. Upon using these, the artist then coloured and textured the raw material by rubbing it with pure pigment and dipping it in resin. ‘Sometime between '54 and '58, after the birth of his daughter Lola, Salvatore took the bands of cloth used to swath the baby to his studio, and after having wrapped them around a wooden frame, he stiffened them with glue and painted them, monochrome, white or dark red, or blue, leaving gaps between the layers of the wrapping’, wrote Piero Dorazio. ‘These empty spaces were like open cuts, like wounds. These works impressed me for their originality and for their value as an extension of his experience as a painter: they represented the first case of a step forward after the provocation of Burri’ (Piero Dorazio, quoted in Luigi Sansone, Salvatore Scarpitta, Catalogue raisonné, Milan, 2005, p. 117).

    Scarpitta’s own experiences of war indeed doubtlessly influenced his subsequent output; his ripped bandage strips are suggestive of wounds but also speak to man’s potential for spiritual renewal, as suggested by the act of knotting which itself is referential to the act of mending. Like his fellow Italian artist Alberto Burri, Scarpitta had seen active service in World War II. However unlike Burri, – who was interned at an American prisoner of war camp in Texas – Scarpitta fought for the Allied forces as a Monuments Man in the Navy, charged with searching, preserving and cataloguing art stolen by the Nazis. With a common thematic and formal approach to their respective oeuvres, both Burri and Scarpitta, who settled in Rome in the late 1940s, dealt with the psychological remnants of the war using unorthodox, industrial materials. They turned to abstraction to create a visual language that could bring life to their disturbing yet profoundly human experiences.

    Though its whimsical title celebrates both Scarpitta’s passion for the automobile and his artistic kinship with Kline, Franz’s Ferrari eludes not the aesthetic of waste that he deployed in reference to history’s darker passages. It furthermore illustrates Piero Dorazio’s belief that Scarpitta stepped beyond Burri’s provocative iterations, through the transcendence of the two-dimensional plane and the physically engaging method of bandaging.


Franz's Ferrari

signed, titled and dated 'SCARPITTA - 1961 - FRANZ'S FERRARI' on the reverse
bandages and mixed media
77.4 x 66.3 x 7.2 cm (30 1/2 x 26 1/8 x 2 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1961.

£300,000 - 400,000 

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén

Director, Senior Specialist
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

44 20 7318 4060
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2019