PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE ALFRED OTTO MÜLLER, COLOGNE
This work is registered in the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, under number 1964.65
The following five works from the collection of the late Alfred Otto Müller epitomise the remarkable eye of one of Cologne’s most discerning collectors and dealers. Mapping the Conceptual development of art during the movement's nascent stages, these outstanding works by Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni and Yves Klein, both individually and as group, convey the visceral intensity and extreme visual beauty of pure expression through simple gestures.
Often buying direct form the artists themselves, Alfred Otto Müller was one of the first people to recognise and promote the work of some of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic geniuses. Following his eye with persistent conviction, Mr Müller assiduously promoted and supported the artists in whom he believed so passionately throughout his life. He first encountered Lucio Fontana’s work in 1959 at the Documenta II in Kassel - the first time the artist had exhibited there. Instantly mesmerised by the poetic beauty and power of the paintings, he wrote to Fontana and an exchange of letters ensued. Before long, Fontana invited Mr Müller to his studio in Milan and the two established a lasting rapport which lasted until the artist’s death in 1968. Over the years, usually coinciding with his visits to the Venice Biennale, Mr Müller visited Fontana’s studio regularly and accumulated a selection of superlative works that epitomise the incredible expressive diversity of Fontana’s oeuvre. The wonderful works acquired by Mr Müller from Fontana not only reveal the discerning eye of the collector but the also the many different ways in which the artist passionately voiced his Concetto Spaziale to the world.
Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale evolved through a range of forms and materials, none of which rival the purity and surface tension of the Tagli or 'cuts'. In these works, it was the surface itself which came under scrutiny as Fontana unlocked an entirely new illusory presence. Acquired directly by Mr Muller from Fontana’s studio in 1966, the rhythmical cuts here witness the perfection of the artist’s most celebrated series. Dramatically breaking into the purity of the delicate white canvas, the lyrical dynamism of Fontana’s cuts embody a deep understanding of the poetic sensitivity of the painted surface in relation to the speed and movement of modern life. These concerns were deeply rooted in the philosophies of the Futurist artists, in particularly Umberto Boccioni. However, Fontana’s dynamist ideal was less concerned with the lines of force extolled by the Futurists but more with the creation of a work that was spatially infinite; a visual and conceptual metaphor for the unknown spritual void or fourth dimension. Rather than contaminating or destroying the form, the gesture and emphasis of Fontana’s Tagli here become the self-generating composition and subject of the work: an embodiment of pure physical expression in a mobile and undefined space. In breaking beyond the material confines of the painted canvas, Fontana liberated and extended the visual capacity of painting to embody a range of conceptual and philosophical concerns.
Poetically voicing his ability to explore and unleash the innate energies of material, the two present Achromes express the aesthetic and conceptual breadth of Piero Manzoni’s most iconic series. Both during his short artistic life and in the decade following his death aged only 30, Piero Manzoni’s influence on international art trends of the Post war period was unrivalled. From Minimalism to Arte Povera, Manzoni’s iconic Achromes became the creative germ from which numerous artistic movements of the 1960’s organically evolved. In particular it was his adoption of a truly conceptual approach to viewing and making art that was so ahead of its time, and was paramount to extending the boundaries of artistic practice during a crucial period of post-war innovation and change.
In the shadow of Abstract Expressionism, Manzoni’s Achromes liberated the canvas from its private and social burdens, emphasising the surface and materials as the true loci of the work. As Manzoni explained: “I am quite unable to understand those painters who, whilst declaring an active interest in modern problems, still continue even today to confront a painting as if it was a surface to be filled with colour and forms which can be more or less appreciated, more or less guessed at … A surface of unlimited possibilities is now reduced to a kind of receptacle into which unnatural colours and artificial meanings are forced. Why shouldn’t this surface be freed? Why not seek to discover the unlimited meaning of total space, of pure and absolute light?” (Piero Manzoni, Libera Dimensione in ‘Azimuth’, No.2, Milan 1960, p. 46-47)
Yves Klein similarly sought to transcend the limitations of pictorial convention through the evocation of pure colour. Believing in the inherent immaterial value of each artwork, Klein’s IKB philosophy was founded upon the Romanticised grounds of creative energy and non-objectivity. Whilst evoking a whole range of spiritual and conceptual notions that relate to Klein’s interest in the philosophies of Japanese spirituality, the intense blue which pervades this work exhibits his use of colour as a powerful autonomous tool. Embracing the psychological impact of colour upon the viewer, here colour finds complete, uninterrupted unity in the monochrome. While lines cut through space denoting form, colour can occupy space completely and can therefore become space itself and provide a window in the realm of immaterial pictorial sensibility.
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