Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino. photo Sotheby's

signed and titled on the reverse, waterpaint on canvas and lacquered wood; 110 by 110cm. 43 1/4 by 43 1/4 in. Executed in 1966. Estimation: 250,000 - 350,000 GBP

Alfred Otto Müller, Cologne (acquired directly from the artist in the 1960s)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art Part 1, 9 December 1999, Lot 17
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

Wuppertal, Kunst-und Museumverein, Hommage à Fontana, 1969, no. 41, illustrated

Rheinische Post, 30 October 1969, illustrated
Christ und die Welt, no. 44, 31 October 1969, p. 12, illustrated
Edward Lucie-Smith, Art Today, Oxford 1977, p. 190, illustrated in colour
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environments spatiaux, Vol. II, Brussels 1974, p. 176, no. 66 TE 29, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Generale, Vol. II, Milan 1986, p.623, no. 66 TE 29, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 812, no.66 TE 29, illustrated

Created in 1966, when Lucio Fontana had reached his artistic maturity, Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino, is an outstanding example of the Teatrini (little theatres) series on which he worked between 1964 and 1966. Having started the Teatrini shortly after La fine di Dio (End of God) cycle, at a time when the theoretical framework of his Spatialist theory was already well defined, the artist felt comfortable enough to use the language he had developed in his Bucchi (holes) and Tagli (cuts) series whilst returning to the more exploratory attitude that characterized his use of different media at the beginning of his career in the 1930s and 1940s.

Framed in galaxical darkest blue lacquered wood, this work beautifully conveys the artist’s fascination with the mysteries of space and matter. The bright blue waterpaint with which Fontana painted the canvas immediately transports us into space, transforming the artwork into a window through which we can observe spatial infinity. The constellation of bucchi or holes that puncture the surface seem to float in the sky like stars in the Milky Way or to follow the trail of a comet passing near the Earth.

Fontana’s art was a response not only to Art History but to the developments in Modern History. In the same way he had been inspired by the innovations brought about by the Futurist movement at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the artist followed the ‘space race’ of the sixties with great interest, which he then transferred to his artmaking. In an interview of 1968, and referring to his artistic response to the growing phenomenon of space which formed around Yuri Gagarin’s first trip in 1961, he declared that his works were “…figurations of man in space, the anguish that seeks forms and has not yet found them, the fear of getting lost, this line of holes indicates man’s journey in space, these are the forms of the inhabitants of other worlds” (the artist, cited in: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan 2006, p. 79).

Although seemingly abstract , the small stages display figurative allusions through the silhouettes of the wooden frame elements that evoke trees and bushes. What's more, the space between the frame and the punctuated background ‘scenery’ alludes to an actual theatre. These half-abstract, half-figurative elements were not created following the conventional laws of perspective. Quite the contrary, through his dramatic use of light and shadow, Fontana succeeded in creating magical atmospheres that allow us to grasp the ‘immaterial’ that lies beyond the stage. The artist would later take his artistic creativity to the extreme, enlarging the scope and artistic dimension of his Teatrini in his collaboration with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where he designed the costume and scenery for theballet Don Chiscciotte by Goffredo Petrassi. As observed by Enrico Crispolti, in this final period of his life, “Fontana’s ‘spatial art’ could no longer, with his extreme inventiveness, remain merely an imaginative and conceptual supposition, but had to develop from mechanical and technological reality and become a very new, mechanical, objective, absolute, spatial projection” (Ibid., p. 81). Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino is an example of such inventiveness evincing the fact that Fontana knew no boundaries for his expressive freedom.

Sotheby's. Contemporary Art Evening Auction. London | 12 févr. 2013 www.sothebys.com