Lot 168
  • 168

ANTONIO DIAS | The Space: Culture

70,000 - 90,000 GBP
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  • Antonio Dias
  • The Space: Culture
  • signed, titled and dated Mi 1970 on the reverse
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 150 by 150 cm. 59 by 59 in.


Private Collection, Austria (acquired directly from the artist in the 1970s)
Thence by descent to the present owner


Colour: The colour in the printed catalogue is fairly accurate, although the overall is slightly warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in good condition. There is some canvas draw to all four extreme corners and light stretcher bar marks are visible. Close inspection in raking light reveals some tiny spots of puckering in isolated places. Further close inspection reveals some splash and media accretions in places throughout and some light handling and rub marks and tension cracks with specks of associated loss to all four edges of the composition. Further close inspection reveals some tiny specks of loss towards the lower right corner and upper center edge of the composition. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultraviolet light.
"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

The Space: Culture elegantly embodies Antonio Dias’ celebrated contribution to Brazilian art and culture through the artist’s ground-breaking geometric articulations of space, line and monochrome colour. The present work is invested with intense graphic immediacy through a style that is both formal and profoundly conceptual. Dias’ planar abstract composition and bold typology exist without communicating anything further about their context, and the work seems to affirm that the nature of aesthetic experience, and thus ‘culture’ is invariably fleeting. Through such meditations, the artist powerfully questions the meaning of images in contemporary society today, and how we interpret visual culture: “Dias’ fields are not neutral surfaces but screens through which we view ample, untamed space. The text on each work—often titles placed above the grid, or words inscribed in each square—suggests the presence of something representational, though the relation between word and image is tenuous, as though a referent is slipping into a void” (Tiago Mesquita, trans. Joaquin Toledo Jr., ‘Remembering the Fragile Unity of Brazilian Artist Antonio Dias (1944-2018)’, Frieze, 17 August 2018, online). The complexity in locating a specific context, space, horizon or place in Dias’ works from this period reflects the artist’s personal experience of self-exile in Europe. Although born in Parabia, Brazil, Dias moved to Paris in 1966 after subtle criticism of his country’s military dictatorship. It was in Paris that Dias came into contact with artists of the Italian avant-garde movement ‘Arte Povera’, and most particularly Luciano Fabro and Giulio Paolini. While Dias’ early canvases married ‘Nova Figuração’ (New Figuration) with the urban aesthetics of graffiti and comic books, he turned towards abstraction in Europe, and this transformation in style is palpable in the present work. The Space: Culture was executed during an exceptionally prolific period in the artist’s career, for in 1971 he was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim fellowship and participated in the Guggenheim International Exhibition, the latter of which displayed the emerging trends of Post-Minimal and Conceptual Art. Here Dias’ work was placed alongside such luminaries as Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, and Donald Judd. This celebrated artist’s recent death in August 2018 has prompted renewed and widespread interest in his diverse oeuvre, and The Space: Culture spectacularly encapsulates Dias’ singular style of abstraction and his outstanding expression of the body and soul of Brazilian art.