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Lucio Fontana (1899 – 1968), Concetto Spaziale, Attese. Estimate 550,000750,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby’s.

signed, titled and inscribed Un susseguirsi di verdi uno più intenso dell’altro on the reverse, waterpaint on canvas,55.5 by 46cm.; 21 5/8 by 18 1/8 in. Executed in 1968.

AUTHENTIFICATION: This work is registered in the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, under the number 3917/1 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity

PROVENANCE: Anna Daelli, Milan
Private Collection, Milan (acquired from the above in the 1970s)
Thence by descent to the present owner

LITTERATURE: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures et Environments Spatiaux, Vol. II, Brussels 1974, p. 205, no. 68 T 102, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Fontana: Catalogo Generale, Vol. II, Milan 1986, p. 695, no. 68 T 102, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 887, no. 68 T 102, illustrated

Notes: Enshrining the single most iconic act of Lucio Fontana’s career Concetto Spaziale, Attese envelops the viewer in a spectacular interplay between the silken white tableau and the two elegant black slashes that dance majestically across the pristine expanse. Executed in 1968, the final year of Fontana’s life, the work is a pinnacle of Fontana’s most revered and instantly recognised body of work. A gesture of singular art historical importance, Fontana’s tagli (cuts) stand, quite simply, as the most effective and timeless expression of the Spatialist project through which Lucio Fontana so fundamentally advanced the course of art history. As Erika Billeter has stated, « Lucio Fontana… challenges the history of painting. With one bold stroke he pierces the canvas and tears it to shreds. Through this action he declares before the entire world that the canvas is no longer a pictorial vehicle and asserts that easel painting, a constant in art heretofore, is called into question. Implied in this gesture is both the termination of a five-hundred year evolution in Western painting and a new beginning, for destruction carries innovation in its wake » (Erika Billeter in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana 1899-1968: A Retrospective, 1977, p. 13).

The first tagli date to the autumn of 1958 and by 1960 Fontana had executed tagli works in an expansive variety of experimental colours including yellow, orange, red, pink, ochre, turquoise, blue, purple, brown, grey, gold, silver, and black. Against this panoply of pigments, the pristine white canvas harnessed powerful connotations of innocence and purity. For Fontana white was, as J. Van der Marck remarked, something that “struck the note of « pure simplicity, » « pure philosophy, » « spatial philosophy, » « cosmic philosophy » to which Fontana more than ever aspired during the last years of his life” (Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures et Environments Spatiaux, Vol. I, Brussels, 1974, p. 137). Furthermore, it evoked the white of light and heat; a beam of white light holds within it the full spectrum of colour, revealed when it is refracted through an optical prism; congruently white has often symbolised technology and the future, particularly in the decades following the Second World War.

Contemporaneously in tune with a post-war context of technological ambition and progression, Fontana’s oeuvre speaks to the age of space exploration and discovery. With these works Fontana hypothesised overturning accepted norms of three-dimensional Cartesian space by invoking and venturing into the fourth dimension of time. 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 futuristic spirit of evolution to engender an object of votive worship offered up to an era of conceptual innovation and radical technological progression.

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Barnett Newman Onement IV, 1949 Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio Image: © Bridgeman Images Artwork: © 2014 The Barnett Newman Foundation, New York / DACS, London

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Lucio Fontana in the courtyard of Corso Monforte, Milan Portrait by Lother Wolleh Image: © Oliver Wolleh

Sotheby’s. The Italian Sale, Londres | 17 oct. 2014, 06:00 PM