Lot 169
  • 169

Lucio Fontana

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Lucio Fontana
  • Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino
  • signed and titled on the reverse
  • waterpaint on canvas and lacquered wood
  • 110 by 120cm.; 43 3/8 by 47 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 1965-66.


Galerie Pierre, Stockholm
Private Collection, Sweden (acquired from the above in 1967)
Thence by descent to the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate. Condition: There is evidence of light wear and handling scattered in isolated places to the edges of the lacquered wood. Extremely close inspection reveals a few pinprick-sized fly spots in the upper left quadrant. Notably visible in certain lights and under ultraviolet light, there is a repaired tear towards the centre of the composition.
"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

 Executed in a stunning palette of sumptuous blue shades, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino is an exceptional piece from one of the artist’s most intriguing series of works – the Teatrini (little theatres). Placed in front of the artist’s dramaturgical stage, his enthralling world plays out before the spectator’s eyes, beautifully capturing Fontana’s fascination with infinity in the blue tones of the night-sky and the lyrically rhythmic pattern of bucchi (holes).

Fontana started his Teatrini works after La Fine di Dio (End of God) cycle in 1964, when his theory on Spatialism was already well-defined. Having decisively ventured into the three-dimensional exploration of the canvas several years earlier with his profoundly radical taglie and bucchi paintings, the artist expanded his new-found technical vocabulary in a series of lavish paintings that approached his original artistic theorem from an entirely different angle. The Teatrini cycle is certainly the most symbolically loaded of Fontana’s late oeuvre, presenting a carefully composed dotted line of his bucchi in the setting of a theatre with different abstract and figurative elements protruding from the frame into the picture plane. This engaging set-up is indeed reminiscent of the Renaissance idea of painting as a window into another world – although the world that Fontana presents in his theatre is as much symbolic as it is real.

The dramatic defiance of the flat picture plane, as exemplified by the punctured holes of Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino, not only signalled a decisive break with the long-standing tradition of two-dimensional painting, but was also a reflection on the physical conquest of space that captivated audiences around the world in the 1960s. Enthralled by the daunting prospects of the infinite space beyond the atmosphere, millions of people followed the space race that coincided with Lucio Fontana’s legendary last decade of art-making. The artist himself was deeply preoccupied with such events, and commented with respect to the growing fascination with space which formed around Yuri Gagarin’s first trip in 1961, that his works were “…figurations of man in space, the anguish that seeks forms and has not yet found them, the fear of getting lost, this line of holes indicates man’s journey in space, these are the forms of the inhabitants of other worlds” (the artist, cited in: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan 2006, p. 79).

Offering the viewer an outlook on a nocturnal spectacle that is sublime in the purest sense – beautiful yet frightening – Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino captures the collective spirit of an era in its visually arresting appearance. The punctured dotted pattern and the rich blue colours of the painting point to the artist’s continuous fascination with infinite space, and beautifully encapsulate the philosophical and material explorations of space that have made Lucio Fontana one of the most influential artists of the Twentieth Century.