Lot 8
  • 8

Lucio Fontana

700,000 - 900,000 GBP
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  • Lucio Fontana
  • Concetto Spaziale
  • oil and coloured glass stones on punctured canvas

  • 59.7 by 73cm.
  • 23 1/2 by 28 3/4 in.
  • Executed in 1961.


Galerie Tarica, Paris
Acquired directly from the above in 1964


Naples, Galleria Il Centro, Lucio Fontana, 1963, no. 3, illustrated Munich, Modern Art Museum, Sammlung Gunter Sachs, 1967, illustrated
Paris, Musée d'art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Passions Privée: Collections Particulières d'Art Moderne et Contemporain en France, 1995-96, p. 448, no. 9, illustrated


Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. II,  Brussels 1974, p. 108, no. 61 O 24, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Vol. I, Milan 1986, p. 366, no. 61 O 24, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 550, no. 61 O 24, illustrated


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although the overall colours are a warmer gold and more shimmering in the original. The illustration fails to convey the sculptural quality of the stones on the surface. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There are a few hairline stable cracks in places to the thickest areas of impasto, two of which have slightly greater apertures in the lower centre of the composition. Some of the finer cracks appear to have been stabilised in the corners. Close inspection reveals a few irregularities to the paint surface along the extreme overturn edges and a small spot of paint loss to the lower centre of the left edge. Examination under UV light reveals a very small spot of re touching to the right edge toward the bottom right corner.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Striking a masterful balance between opulence and conceptual innovation, Concetto Spaziale is a stunning exemplification of Lucio Fontana's groundbreaking scrutiny of the two-dimensional picture plane.  Acquired by Gunter Sachs from the Parisian dealer Galerie Tarica in 1964, this work is testament to the significance of Fontana for the Parisian avant-garde, and the importance of Paris for Fontana at the beginning of the 1960s. In accordance with Sach's collecting activity during this period, Fontana's position as the progenitor of 'Spatialism' places him as crucial to the development of Nouveau Réalisme in Paris. Indeed, his work played an important mediating role, and should not be underestimated in forming a crucial link in the chain between the sign and material of Art Informel which later gave way to a philosophical dialogue with monochrome painting and the European Zero and Nul groups during the 1960s. Cosmically aligned to the artistic project of Yves Klein and the Nouveau Realists, Fontana's work stood at the frontline of the burgeoning assault on the pictorial limitations of painting.

Executed in 1961, Concetto Spaziale is a magnificent early example from the series of Olii, or Oils, Fontana initiated in 1960. Articulated with scratches, projections and protrusions on a ground of lustrous and highly textured golden pigment, this work represents one of the very first occasions Fontana would use metallic oil paint as his primary surface – a medium later perfected in his definitive series La Fino de Dio in 1963. In the present pioneering work, lyrical swathes of metallic paint, a rhythmical distribution of gashes, puncture marks and geometrically positioned coloured glass incite a magnificent viewing experience, opening seeming limitless possibilities in the play of colour and light. Encapsulated within a surrounding eliptical boundary incised into the viscous golden impasto, Fontana unifies a simple graphic lexica of gauged holes and protruding cut glass as a means of inviting an experience of spatial reality into the traditional illusionism of the two-dimensional work of art: "I make a hole in the canvas in order to leave behind the old pictorial formulae, the painting and the traditional view of art and I escape, symbolically, but also materiallty, from the prison of the flat surface" (the artist in: 'Conversation with Tommaso Trini, July 19 1968 in: Exhibition Catalogue, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1988, p. 34). The jutting stones and thick textural surface act as counterparts to the recessions of the geometrically organised buchi, or holes: the punctured voids are contrasted with the boldly protruding swathes of impasto, creating a landscape of diametrically opposed forces. This balance between recession and protrusion is highly conceptual, as Enrico Crispolti has outlined: "The 'holes' in fact, represent a spatial 'otherside' with respect to the surface of the canvas, while the material concretions and the 'stones' on the surface represent 'this side', creating a different spatial allusion, but also iconographic suggestions of a prevalently cosmic nature" (Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Vol. I, Milan 2006, p. 31).

1961 was the year Yuri Gagarin was launched into orbit around the earth, exciting the possibility of travel into outer space whilst shattering spatial divisions, unleashing an incommensurable concept of space as endless and infinite.  As expounded by the artist: "The discovery of the Cosmos is a new dimension, it is infinitity, so I make a hole in the canvas, which was a the basis of all the arts, and I have created an infinite dimension... I make holes, infinity passes through them, light passes through them, there is no need to paint" (the artist cited in: Ibid., p. 65). Fontana felt that scientific advances demanded parallel innovations in art, which he felt should phenomenologically extend into our surroundings, existing not in two dimensions but in space. Heralding the mature realisation of this conceptual conceit, the 1960s represent the most pioneering, whilst sadly marking the last decade of Fontana's evolutionary artistic inquiry.

The role of Paris during this groundbreaking period proved enormously important for Fontana's career: numerous solo shows of particular success and significance presented new developments in his work. Indeed, as expressed in the artist's letters, Fontana strongly avowed the value of a critical dialogue with this city: "I am more aware everyday of just how important this experiment with Paris is for me." (the arist cited in: Enrico Crispolti, 'A Great Return: Fontana and Paris', Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Tornabuoni Art, Lucio Fontana, 2009, p. 31). The exhibitions hosted here during the beginning of the 1960s were imperative in terms of the critical and philosophical exchange with the developing avant-garde; indeed, previously non-existent in Paris before the 1960s, critical response was driven and cultivated by the leading French art critic Michel Tapié, who would later introduce Fontana's work to Japan.

Shattering the division between painting and sculpture Fontana's work alludes to the cosmic, the concept that our presence in space is not bound to our conscribed environs but that there is something else beyond our ability to perceive, and that we might conceive of it through the power of art. Within the Gunter Sachs Collection, if Fautrier focused on the inner turmoil of our psychological and corporeal existence after the war, and Warhol on the exterior obsession with surface in our product and celebrity centric culture, Fontana engaged the spaces which surround and define us and our phenomenological desire to further the boundaries of our existence.