Lot 12
  • 12

Lucio Fontana

550,000 - 750,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Lucio Fontana
  • Concetto Spaziale, Attesa
  • signed, titled and inscribed finalmente ò finito di lavorare on the reverse
  • waterpaint on canvas
  • 65 by 54cm.
  • 25 1/2 by 21 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 1964-5.


Acquired directly from the artist by the owner in the late 1960s


Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Generale, Vol. II, Milan 1986, p. 552, no. 64-65 T 32, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 736, no. 64-65 T 32, illustrated

Catalogue Note

"A butterfly in space excites my imagination. Freed from rhetoric, I lose myself in time and begin my holes..."

(the artist cited in: Renato Miracco, Lucio Fontana at the Roots of Spatialism, Milan 2006, p. 49)

Lucio Fontana's stunning Concetto Spaziale, Attesa from 1964-5 is an elegantly sublime archetype of the artist's legendary Tagli works. The sharp contrast of the silken white surface with the blackness of the single vertical slash epitomises Erika Billeter's statement that: "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" (Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana 1899-1968: A Retrospective, 1977, p.13). Shortly after the present work’s execution, in 1966, Fontana exhibited at the Venice Biennale and won the Grand Prize for a Painter. He had created an Ambiente Spaziale (Spatial Environment) comprising six monumental white canvases, each with a single cut, displayed within a white interior. Distilling his slashes into their most elemental form, Fontana returned to the single dark rupture within the pure white field.   

Compositionally pure and mesmerising in its beauty, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa embodies the artist's revolutionary Spatialist theory while engendering a unique dialogue between colour and form. The white monochrome field of the canvas is an expanse of serenity, harnessing enduring and powerful connotations of innocence and purity. It also frames 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. The alluring white arena of Concetto Spaziale, Attesa is ablaze with energy, acting as apt parallel to Fontana's idea of the artist as the source of creative energy.

The elegantly vigorous and lyrically slender slash simultaneously evinces spontaneity and control, choreographed between the deft edge of Fontana's blade and the taut canvas. Here the artist discards conventional reverence for pictorial illusionism, his strokes of genius navigating risk: if the cut deviated from Fontana's desired line, the entire canvas was destroyed. Not only did the canvas need to be perfectly stretched, but the outcome depended on a moment of chance and performance. The slash is a bravura exhibition of the unrepeatable instance; the immediacy of the artist's gesture is suspended in time. The speed of the action recorded has the effect of 'killing time', wheras the clarity of the linear stroke memorialises the moment of its creation. This painting radiates with a sense of the momentary, yet there is nothing haphazard about its making. The result is transfixing and unique among the Tagli series: with nervous energy and dynamic force, space pulses through the opening.

Created at the height of the artist's career, this work encapsulates the artist's pioneering vision of what art could achieve. Having broadcast his theory of Spatialism in five manifestos between 1946 and 1952, Fontana was to forge unthinkable advancements in artistic ideology, pushing towards a new age of Spatialist art that engaged technology and found expression for a fourth dimension. Almost exclusively a sculptor until his forties, Fontana’s painted oeuvre consistently emphasised its own physical 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 gap between solid and void both by carving marks out of material and by creating freestanding marks in space. In close relation to Concetto Spaziale, Attesa, 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. In the Natura cycle of imperfectly shaped terracotta spheres (1959-60) deep gashes suggest orifices and geographical fault lines, further freeing the artist from the constraints of two-dimensionality. In Concetto Spaziale, Attesa Fontana dissects the very concept of painting, undermining forever the flat picture plane. As Fontana declared in his last recorded interview: "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" (the artist speaking in 1968, quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1988, p. 34).