Lot 38
  • 38

LUCIO FONTANA | Concetto Spaziale, Attese

2,400,000 - 3,000,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Lucio Fontana
  • Concetto Spaziale, Attese
  • signed, titled and inscribed Si è rotta la ruota della bicicletta on the reverse
  • waterpaint on canvas
  • 81.9 by 65 cm. 32 1/4 by 25 5/8 in.
  • Executed in 1965-66.


Galerie Mathias Fels, Paris
Galerie Löwenadler, Stockholm
Douglas Myers, Auckland
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Basel, Galerie Löwenadler, Art Internationale Kunstmesse, September 1975


Enrico Crispolti, Fontana: Catalogo Generale, Vol. II, Milan 1986, p. 629, no. 65-66 T 10, illustrated Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 819, no. 65-66 T 10, illustrated


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"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

“My cuts are above all a philosophical statement, an act of faith in the infinite, an affirmation of spirituality. When I sit down to contemplate one of my cuts, I sense all at once an enlargement of the spirit, I feel like a man freed from the shackles of matter; a man at one with the immensity of the present and of the future.” Lucio Fontana cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, 2006, p. 23.

In Lucio Fontana’s vibrant scarlet painting Concetto Spaziale, Attese, (Spatial Concept, Expectation) four dramatically rendered incisions perforate an otherwise smooth and pristine surface. Executed in 1965-1966, at the pinnacle of the artist’s critically acclaimed and vastly influential career, the work exemplifies Fontana’s revered series of slashed canvases, known as the tagli, or cuts.  First implemented at the end of 1958 and continued right up until the artist’s death in 1968, the tagli constitute a seminal redefinition of the conception of space in painting. Its creative inception had in fact been articulated over a decade earlier in 1946, when Fontana penned his first artistic treatise, Manifesto Blanco. There, Fontana proposed the notion of Spazialismo, or Spatialism, which sought to articulate the fourth dimension by instigating a radical dialogue between depth and space in art, and the rapid technological and scientific advancements of his contemporary moment. Indeed, throughout his lifetime, Fontana witnessed an escalation in scientific discoveries that would culminate in the momentous Space Race of the Twentieth Century. Fontana was fascinated by these era-defining developments, which spiralled from Albert Einstein’s 1916 Theory of Relativity and the 1919 splitting of the atom by Ernest Rutherford, into Georges Lemaître’s 1931 Big Bang Theory, Robert Oppenheimer’s 1939 hypotheses on black holes, the 1967 launch of Sputnik by the USSR, and finally Man’s first journey into space with Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Enraptured by the vast unknown dimensions of the universe, Fontana’s tagli provided a means for the artist to explore his own ideas concerning the relationship between cosmic and material space. Just as Gagarin would exceed the limits of the Earth’s atmosphere as he journeyed into outer space, so too would Fontana slice through his canvases to expose a deep and impalpable darkness beyond the picture plane.

At once striking and seductive, passionate and pure, the vividly painted canvas in Concetto Spaziale, Attese, is wholly charged with the effervescent energy of Fontana’s revolutionary gesture of the tagli, which pulsate, as the title of the work insinuates, with impending expectation. As each slash penetrates the evenly painted surface, the profound darkness of the plunging black recesses eloquently articulates the artist’s quest for what he termed “the Infinite, the inconceivable chaos, the end of figuration, nothingness” (Lucio Fontana cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1999, p. 198). In the present work, a sequence of cuts perforates the bold flesh of the painted canvas: three of them form perfectly vertical lines; one is a sharp diagonal. Their repetition, however, is by no means rigid or mechanical. On the contrary, a sense of organic life pervades the work, enticing the viewer through its alluring and mysterious allusion to an endless, infinite void. Fontana created his tagli using a sharp blade that he would dexterously manipulate in his studio to swiftly slash, in a singular descending gesture, his still-damp canvases. He would subsequently widen each incision using his fingers, allowing each freshly cut band to curl inwards. Finally, he would apply black gauze to the reverse of the ruptured canvas to accentuate its impression of endless and ineffable depth. Visceral in their raw immediacy, the softly undulating edges of the tagli exude a certain sensual tactility. The painting’s vivid and fiery hue further heightens its potent intensity, dichotomously evoking a sense of violence and desire.  

Red, as the colour of blood as much as a symbol of anger, passion and lust, is a vital emblem for Fontana. Powerful in its rich, multifaceted and concomitant implications, it is the most coveted and highly sought after colour of the Concetto Spaziale series, pertaining both to the weighty tradition of religion and the unfurling future of the cosmos; to the exhilaration of new scientific discovery and the existential anxiety generated by a growing awareness of the vast and mysterious depths of the universe. Indeed, whilst Fontana’s victorious overturn of the dominant aesthetic dogma of Renaissance spatial reasoning constituted a radical schism with canonical art history, the indisputable tension between unity and rupture, beauty and brutality, transcendent serenity and unspeakable violence in Concetto Spaziale, Attese simultaneously invokes the most traditional remit of Western art: the devotional framework of the Catholic Church. The four lacerations of the present work are strikingly wound-like in appearance, a perception enhanced by the smoothness of the vibrant red pigment that saturates the canvas, seeping from the dark caesuras in a contemporary echo of Christ’s wounds on the cross. Significantly, mirroring the Christian message of salvation through sacrifice, it is only by enacting violence upon an unblemished surface that Fontana achieves access to a new and unknown dimension. Here, in his perforated canvases, past and present compellingly collide. “The discovery of the Cosmos is that of a new dimension, it is the Infinite,” the artist boldly proclaimed; “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 cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, 2006, p. 19).