Lot 39
  • 39

Lucio Fontana

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
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  • Lucio Fontana
  • Concetto Spaziale
  • signed, titled and inscribed Remore e incentive per la ripresa economica on the reverse

  • waterpaint on canvas
  • 38 1/4 x 51 1/4 in. 97.2 x 130.2 cm.
  • Executed in 1965.


Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Rome
Private Collection, Rome
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Madrid, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Memoria del futuro. Arte italiano desde las primeras vanguardias a la posguerra, 1991, p. 172, illustrated
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Lucio Fontana, 1998, p. 271, illustrated in color


Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. II, Brussels, 1974, pp. 158-159, no. 65 T 18, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. II, Milan, 1986, p. 560, no. 65 T 18, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Vol. II, Milan, 2006, p. 749, no. 65 T 18, illustrated


This painting is in excellent condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art department at 212-606-7254 for a condition report prepared by Terrence Mahon. The canvas is mounted behind Plexiglas within a deep frame of painted white wood, with a large float covered in pale gray fabric.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

"The discovery of the Cosmos is that of a new dimension, it is the Infinite: thus I pierce this canvas, which is the basis of all arts and I have created an infinite dimension, an 'x' which for me is the basis for all Contemporary Art"

The artist cited in Exh. Cat., New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana, Venice/ New York, 2006, p. 19

Lucio Fontana's supremely elegant Concetto Spaziale, Attese from 1965 is one of the largest and most beautiful examples of this truly iconic body of work ever to appear at auction. The grand scale envelops the viewer in a spectacular interplay between the silken white tableau and the twelve black slashes that dance majestically across the pristine expanse. Concetto Spaziale, Attese stands, quite simply, as the most effective and timeless expression of the Spatialist project through which Lucio Fontana so fundamentally advanced the course of Art History. As Erika Billeter has stated, "Lucio Fontana... challenges the history of painting. With one bold stroke he pierces the canvas and tears it to shreds. Through this action he declares before the entire world that the canvas is no longer a pictorial vehicle and asserts that easel painting, a constant in art heretofore, is called into question. Implied in this gesture is both the termination of a five-hundred year evolution in Western painting and a new beginning, for destruction carries innovation in its wake" (Exh. Cat. New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana 1899-1968: A Retrospective, 1977, p. 13). In short, the stark cessation of the immaculate picture plane by these depthless fissures is Fontana's perfect metaphor for the cessation of what E.H. Gombrich legendarily termed The Story of Art. In 1966, following the year Concetto Spaziale, Attese was executed and just two years before his early death, Fontana was awarded first prize for painting by the international jury of the XXXIII Venice Biennial for his white room, which featured the white tagli canvases exclusively. Further, resounding confirmation of this work's rarity and importance is provided by the fact that in the year following the artist's death his widow, Teresita Rasini Fontana, selected the directly comparable Concetto spaziale, Attese as a major donation to the Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin: a painting also in white and also consisting of twelve immaculate slashes.

The twelve lyrically slender slashes simultaneously evince spontaneity and control, choreographed under the deft aegis of Fontana's blade into a rhythmic dance across the canvas; virtually as if notes across sheet music. Here the artist discards conventional reverence for the canvas and his strokes of genius attest essential risk: if the cut deviated from Fontana's desired line, the entire canvas would have been discarded. Not only did the canvas need to be perfectly taut for a successful result, but the outcome depended on the moment of chance in the performance. The pattern of slashes is a bravura exhibition of the unrepeatable moment, repeated; the immediacy of the artist's gesture is suspended in time. The speed of the action recorded has the effect of 'killing time', while the clarity of the twelve linear strokes underlines the moment of their creation. However, although this painting radiates with a sense of the momentary, there is nothing haphazard about its making. The outermost slashes are aligned in the top register to enclose the inner sequence of the variously slanting cuts that slice through the canvas weave, and energy and space pulses through these openings. Experienced in this way, the painting works effectively as sculpture, with the relative distances between the viewer's eye and the three-dimensional, articulated surfaces constantly adjusting as we move around it. Of equal importance to the cuts are the carefully deliberated spaces between, which in turn provide echoes that result in a rhythmic cadence that is quite transfixing and unique among the tagli series. The white monochrome field of Concetto Spaziale, Attese is a mesmerising expanse, harnessing powerful connotations of innocence and purity. It also evokes the white of light and heat; a beam of white light holds within it the full spectrum of colour, revealed when it is refracted through an optical prism; and white has often symbolised technology and the future, particularly in the decades following the Second World War.

Having broadcast his theory of Spatialism in five manifestos between 1946 and 1952, Fontana was to forge unthinkable advancements in artistic ideology, seeking to create a new age of Spatialist art that engaged technology and found expression for a fourth dimension and Infinity. Having been almost exclusively a sculptor until his forties, his oeuvre consistently referenced an artwork's material properties. Fontana's inquiry into the indeterminate zone between painting and sculpture was rooted in his abstract and figurative sculpture of the 1930s, which tested the distance between solid and void both by carving marks out of material and by creating freestanding marks in space. In close relation to Concetto Spaziale, Attese, the tavolette graffite (scratched tablets) from 1931 display fluid incisions in cement that merge and dissolve as if free-floating. Even at this early stage Fontana evinced a disregard for traditional techniques and an interest in infinite space that would be significantly developed through painting. In the Natura cycle of imperfectly shaped terracotta spheres (1959-69) deep gashes suggest orifices and geographical fault lines, further freeing the artist from the constraints of two-dimensionality. In Concetto Spaziale, Attese Fontana dissects the very concept of painting, undermining forever the flat picture plane. As Fontana declared in his last recorded interview in 1968: "'I make a hole in a canvas in order to leave behind the old pictorial formulae, the painting and the traditional view of art and I escape, symbolically, but also materially, from the prison of the flat surface.' "(Exh. Cat. Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum [and traveling], Lucio Fontana, 1988, p. 34).

Compositionally dynamic and enthralling in its beauty, Concetto Spaziale, Attese embodies the artist's revolutionary Spatialist theory while engendering a unique dialogue between colour and form. Fontana offers an original interpretation of the artist's gesture: instead of letting it remain on the surface he makes it penetrate through the canvas. This edited canvas is itself an act of art historical editing: the slashes propose questions concerning the relationship between the surface and the void, about the hidden properties of material, and regarding our place in the world around. Richly connotative, we are confronted with a multitude of sensual suggestions - at slits between theatre curtains, glimmers between lips, surgical incisions - but above all, through the superbly simple flick of a knife, Fontana initiated fissures in artistic convention that were to pierce the very meaning of art.