Lot 28
  • 28

Lucio Fontana

2,200,000 - 2,800,000 GBP
2,322,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Lucio Fontana
  • Concetto Spaziale, Attese
  • signed, titled and inscribed 1+1+17 YH oggi piove forte!! on the reverse
  • waterpaint on canvas


Galleria La Bussola, Turin

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in the late 1960s


Giulio Bolaffi, Catalogo Bolaffi d'Arte Moderna, Turin 1970, pp. 208-09, illustrated 

Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures et Environments Spatiaux, Vol. II, Brussels 1974, p. 157, no. 64 T 90, illustrated

Enrico Crispolti, Fontana: Catalogo Generale, Vol. II, Milan 1986, p. 534, no. 64 T 90, illustrated

Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 720, no. 64 T 90, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Comprising two exquisite rows of columnar cuts, Concetto Spaziale, Attese, is a remarkable articulation of Lucio Fontana’s revolutionary body of Spatialist work. The exquisite choreography of eleven finely balanced incisions slicing through a pristine white canvas here denotes an extraordinary meeting of Modernism with the Catholic art historical tradition. Inheriting the ideals of Futurism through embracing the progress of technology, Fontana looked to a new mode of artistic expression at the dawn of a new scientific era; one qualified by the promise of cosmic exploration into the unknown reaches of space. By rupturing pictorial tradition, the Concetto Spaziale endeavoured towards an enigmatic dimension presiding beyond the picture plane. Nonetheless, it is in his idiosyncratic gesture – the iconoclastic cut or puncture – that Fontana continues a legacy that has shaped the development of western art history: the Christian notion of transfiguration through violence and suffering. Indeed, Fontana’s corpus of tagli is unmistakably imbued with a votive aura of contemplation. Photographs documenting the iconic exhibition at the 1966 Venice Biennale emphatically deliver this point. Furnished solely by monumental white tagli, the artist designed and curated an entirely white Ambienti Spaziale (Spatial Environment). Together these canvases engendered an atmosphere of holiness, conflating art-environment with a light-flooded chapel. In this space Modernist white canvases presented in venerative recesses became objects of meditative power. Rigorously conceptual yet deeply spiritual, Fontana’s Spatialism represents a unique marriage of the cosmic with the mysticism of Catholic imagery.

Contemporaneously in tune with an international political context of technological ambition and progression, Fontana’s Spatialist theories speak to the age of space exploration and discovery. In 1957 the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, into orbit; in 1959, the Soviets landed probe Luna 2 on the moon. The “space race” permeated political rhetoric internationally, establishing the moon as the next frontier for human exploration. With punctured picture planes and lacerated canvases Fontana hypothesised overturning accepted norms of three-dimensional Cartesian space by invoking and venturing into an abyssal and void-like fourth dimension. Hence Fontana’s statement that: “the discovery of the Cosmos is that of a new dimension, it is the Infinite: thus I pierce the 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” (Lucio Fontana quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, 2006, p. 19). Though embodying an art historically iconoclastic and destructive act, Concetto Spaziale, Attese simultaneously invokes a spirit of evolution and progression to engender an object of votive worship offered up to an era of conceptual innovation and radical technological progression.

Deeply affected by Italian Futurism, Lucio Fontana understood how technology could fundamentally redefine the boundaries of human existence. His Manifesto Blanco (1946) had appreciatively stated: “Futurism adopts movement as the only beginning and the only end” (Lucio Fontana, 'Manfesto Bianco', 1946, quoted in: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 19). For Fontana, Futurism rightly valued the forward progress of civilisation and acknowledged the implications of Einstein’s theories of relativity. Yet whereas Futurism obsessed over sleek industrial design and the sublime amalgamation of man and machine in the terrestrial sphere, Fontana perceived a different aspect of progress: the loneliness of vast, unexplored territories, the return to primordial states of becoming, and a mysterious fourth-dimension.

Fontana undoubtedly inherited Futurism’s high-modernist endeavour to bring forth a totally new art for a new era, but the mechanical character and emphasis on speed/movement through urban space vital to their project is resolutely absent from Fontana’s Spatialist enterprise. Instead, the wounded picture plane and the scars of his eloquently sliced canvases hark back to an established art historical legacy. Far from the Futurist’s bombastic insistence on burning down the libraries and flooding the museums to purge the oppressive past, Fontana’s Spatialism expresses a project of celebrating the past by uniting it with the future. A particular fondness for the Baroque and Counter-Reformatory motifs is abundantly resonant in his work via the ornamental use of cut Murano glass, thick application of gold paint, glittering lustrini, textural arabesques and gestural curlicues – aesthetic choices that align his painting with bejewelled reliquaries and the highly ornamental churches of Baroque Venice. However, in the present work, it is the connection between violence in the act of creation and the notion of sublimation that most aptly aligns Fontana’s work with the Catholic tradition. The suffering of the martyrs and wounds of Christ are here laid out in the language of Modernism: only through facing violence and iconoclasm can enlightenment be attained. Though not speaking of the Catholic message, Fontana undoubtedly phrases his Spatialist journey in the vernacular of western art history. Delicately sliced through the pristine white canvas, the viewer is impelled to reach out, like Doubting Thomas, towards these lacerations. Via an act of transfiguration, the violence staged upon the picture plane grants access to the infinite dimension beyond the phenomenological.