Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968) Concetto Spaziale, Natura 1959-1960

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Lot 27AR
Lucio Fontana
(Italian, 1899-1968)
Concetto Spaziale, Natura

£ 350,000 - 550,000
US$ 440,000 - 700,000
Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968)
Concetto Spaziale, Natura

incised with the artist's initials and numbered 1/2 on the underside

41 by 51 by 47 cm.
16 1/8 by 20 1/16 by 18 1/2 in.

This work was conceived in 1959-1960 and cast at a later date. This work is number 1 from and edition of 2, plus 1 artist's proof.


  • Provenance
    Teresita Rasini Fontana Collection, Milan
    Marlborough Gallery, Rome
    Kasper Koenig, Cologne
    Private Collection
    Sale: Sotheby's, London, The Italian Sale, 7 October 2016, Lot 40
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    Krefeld, Galerie Merian Edition, Lucio Fontana, 1899-1968, 1973, n.p., another example illustrated in black and white
    Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Lucio Fontana, 1974-1975, no. 32 (another example exhibited)
    Verbania-Pallanza, Museo del Paesaggio, Biennale Internazionale di scultura contemporanea, Aptico: Il Senso della Scultura, 1976 (another example exhibited)
    Milan, Palazzo Reale, La Donazione Lucio Fontana: proposta per una sistemazione museografica, 1979, p. 107, no. 74, illustrated in black and white (terracotta version)
    Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Fontana, 1980, p. 64, no. 38, another example illustrated in black and white
    Milan, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Pubblico Privato, Omaggio al Mecenatismo, 1981 (another example exhibited)
    Milan, Palazzo della Permanente, Il segno della pittura e della scultura, 1983, no. 1 (not illustrated), p. 56, illustrated in black and white (installation view, terracotta version)
    Milan, CIMAC, Civico Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Palazzo Reale, Arte italiana 1900-1980, 1984 (terracotta version)
    Tokyo, The Contemporary Art Gallery, Seibu-Ikebukuro, Fontana, 1984, n.p., no. 21, another example illustrated in black and white
    Bologna, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Scultura e ceramica in Italia nel Novecento, 1989, p. 85, no. 52, illustrated in black and white (installation view, terracotta version)
    Milan, Palazzo della Permanente, Scultura a Milano 1945-1990, 1990, pp. 65 and 174, illustrated in black and white (terracotta version)
    Tokyo, The Yomiuri Shimbun and Mitsukoshi Museum; Kagoshima, Museo Municipale d'Arte; Nishinomiya, Otani Museum of Art, Lucio Fontana, La penetrazione dello spazio, 1992, p. 107, no. 76, another example illustrated in black and white
    Varese, Castello di Masnago, Scultura a Varese, dal verismo a oggi, 1994, no. 45 (another example exhibited)
    Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Fontana, 1994-1995, p. 129, no. 81, another example illustrated in colour (installation view)
    Venice, Giardini di Castello, Padiglione Italia, La Biennale di Venezia, 46° Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte. Identitá e alteritá, figure del corpo 1895-1995, 1995, p. 514, no. IX 21, another example illustrated in black and white
    Prato, Museo Pecci, Burri e Fontana 1949-1968, 1996, p. 169, no. 30, illustrated in colour (terracotta version)
    Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle; Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Lucio Fontana, Retrospektive, 1996 – 1997, p. 201, no. 161, another example illustrated in colour
    Palma de Mallorca, Fundación La Caixa; Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Lucio Fontana, Entre matéria y espacio, 1998, p. 105, no. 56, another example illustrated in colour
    Milan, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea; Triennale di Milano; Museo Diocesano; Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera; Museo Teatrale alla Scala; Centenario di Lucio Fontana, 1999, pp. 58 and 124, nos. I, 114; IV, 18, another example illustrated in black and white and in colour
    London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1999-2000, p. 35, no. 17, illustrated in black and white (installation view, terracotta version)
    Rio de Janeiro, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil; São Paulo, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Lucio Fontana, A òtica do invisivel, 2001-2002, p. 131, another example illustrated in colour
    Burgdorf, Museum Franz Gertsch, Lucio Fontana, 2004, p. 141, no. 94, another example illustrated in colour
    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lucio Fontana, Ambiente Spaziali, 2012, p. 257, no. 281, another example illustrated in colour
    Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Lucio Fontana, 2014, no. 148 (another example exhibited)

    Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue raisonné des peintures et environments spatiaux, II, Brussels 1974, p 107, no. 59/60 N 25, illustrated in black and white (terracotta version)
    Enrico Crispolti, Erotismo nell'arte astratta (e altre schede per una iconologia dell'arte astratta), Trapani 1976, no. 9, illustrated in black and white (terracotta version)
    Enrico Crispolti, Fontana, Catalogo Generale, Volume primo, Milan 1986, p. 356, no. 59-60 N 25, illustrated (terracotta version)
    Enrico Crispolti, Fontana, Milan 1999, p. 194, no. 202, illustrated in colour (terracotta version)
    Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Tomo I, Milan 2006, p. 536, no. 59-60 N 25, illustrated in black and white (terracotta version)

    Despite being best known for his slashed monochrome paintings, Lucio Fontana considered himself a sculptor above all else. Born in Rosario, Argentina in 1899, the artist moved to Milan at a young age and later trained at the Accademia di Brera under the tutelage of the refined representational sculptor Adolfo Wildt. The son of an Italian sculptor, Fontana's early life was based around his devotion to his father's craft. Whilst he first produced work in line with the prevalent aesthetic of the time, the Novecento Italiano movement that embraced Italy's renowned representational tradition, the highly finished technique of his work gradually became looser and looser, paving its way away from Novecento and closer to pure abstraction.

    In 1934 the artist joined the Parisian group Abstraction-Création, just as his friend Fausto Melotti did one year after. In 1935, Fontana moved to the small coastal town of Albisola the epicentre of Italian ceramic research and production where his ceramic investigations began in earnest. Whilst attempting an array of traditional subject matter from fantasias, rampant horses, lions, sibyls, warriors to saints and crucifixes, Fontana's execution was in a simultaneously loose and intense manner, the plasticity of clay acting as the perfect material for his firm and expressive manipulation.

    During World War II Fontana returned to Argentina where, in 1946, he published the Manifesto Blanco, which included his first ideas on Spatialism – lifting 'spatial' qualities of art above visual and aesthetic ones. After the war, Fontana came back to Italy and in 1947, he became the co-founder of the Milan based Movimento Spaziale, which operated according to the Manifesto Blanco, serving as a great influence and inspiration to the German ZERO group and their Dutch counterpart, Nul.
    Fontana's studio in Milan had been destroyed in the war, and as with many artists of that period, this destruction would reveal itself in many aspects of his work. Humanity went through a rapid technological advancement in the mid-twentieth century, with more progress made in fifty years than in the previous five hundred. Science in many ways replaced religion and Fontana called for art to shed its historical and conformist frameworks and fundamentally update its spirit and method. The response to his own doctrine was to create art that explored a new dimension, almost irrespective of the artistic media – a concept that is encapsulated perfectly in the present work.

    Concetto Spaziale, Natura is one of a series of forty-four individual works created between 1959 and 1960 in Albissola. Moulded and shaped from terracotta, with some subsequently cast in bronze, the sculptures would fall into two broad categories dependent on the incisions and gauges made of the surfaces. This in turn mirrors Fontana's approach to painting where he created the buchi (holes) and the slit canvases, usually subtitled attese (waiting). Along with the monumental series of egg-shaped Fine di Dio canvases of 1963-64, the Nature, are themselves reminiscent of seeds and new life and are amongst Fontana's most lyrical and emblematic works. As art historian Anthony White has stated: "Instead of the pregnant fullness of perfect form, the canvas [of Fine di Dio] reflects a body that appears broken and hollow... Thus the theory of nothingness, which was central to the conception of the Nature sculptures, is also at the heart of the End of God series" (Anthony White, Lucio Fontana: Between Utopia and Kitsch, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2011, p. 260).

    Bearing violent gouges and raw clefts, these organic, meteoric spheres engage the viewer on a multitude of spatial and conceptual levels, rupturing the boundary between the internal and the external and confusing the viewers' corporeal relationship to its three-dimensional form. Attacking the work with a long metal pole and using all his weight behind the bar for leverage, Fontana would thrust the instrument into the heavy ball of soft clay, stirring it deep into its core with speed and spontaneity thereby creating the characteristic thick and crusty rim along the edges of each gorge and gash. With raw edges bearing the violent trace of the artist's forceful manipulation of matter, the present work is simultaneously corporeal and celestial, erotic and cosmological. The subtle malleable qualities of the terracotta were then transformed into cold hard bronze, thereby drastically changing the overall feel of the work and evoking a profound feeling of gravitas. When asked about his inspiration, Fontana stated, 'I was thinking of those worlds, of the moon with these... holes, this terrible silence that causes us anguish, and the astronauts in a new world. And so... in the artist's fantasy... these immense things have been there for billions of years... man arrives, in mortal silence, in this anguish, and leaves a vital sign of his arrival... were these not still forms with a sign of wanting to make inert matter live?' (the artist in: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. I, Milan 2015, p. 73).

    Testament to its foremost importance within Fontana's oeuvre, the present edition of Concetto spaziale, Natura has been exhibited in a number of major exhibitions including at the Palazzo Pitti, Florence (1980), Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (1996), Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (1997), the Hayward Gallery, London (1999-2000) and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris (2014) to name but a few. Many of the remaining Natura works today reside in some of the most prestigious museum collections across the globe such as the National Gallery, Berlin, the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Moderna Museet, Sweden; and the Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach.

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  • Please note that this work has been withdrawn.
Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968) Concetto Spaziale, Natura 1959-1960
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