Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale, Attesa. Photo Sotheby's

signed, titled and inscribed Dovrei andare a Parigi con Crippa on the reverse, waterpaint on canvas, 116 by 89cm.; 45 3/4 by 35in. Executed in 1965. Estimate 2,200,000 — 3,000,000 GBP

Provenance: Galleria la Polena, Genoa
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1966

Exhibited: Genoa, Galleria la Polena, Lucio Fontana, 1966, n.p., illustrated

Literature : Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures et Environments Spatiaux, Vol. II, Brussels 1974, pp. 158-59, no. 65 T 14, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Fontana: Catalogo Generale, Vol. II, Milan 1986, p. 558, no. 65 T 14, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 748, no. 65 T 14, illustrated

Note: A captivatingly serene silken white tableau pierced with a dramatic single black slash, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa is an unparalleled example of Lucio Fontana’s pioneering spatio-temporal investigations. Executed in 1965 at the height of Fontana’s truly ground-breaking conceptual dialogue, the utterly pristine surface of the present work delivers an overwhelming visual experience of spectacular clarity that borders on the sublime, the perfect expression of Fontana’s search for "the Infinite, the inconceivable chaos, the end of figuration, nothingness" (Lucio Fontana quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 2000, p. 198). One of only ten works created on this unusual large scale and articulated on a pure white ground in the pivotal year of 1965, the present work is one of the most iconic pieces in the Concetto Spaziale, Attesa series – Fontana’s most celebrated and instantly recognised body of work. The importance of the single and monumental white slash in Fontana’s oeuvre is entirely unsurpassable and unsurprisingly it was chosen as the single supreme format for the artist’s seminal exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1966 for which he was awarded the coveted accolade of first prize. Amidst the wide variety of works articulated in a multitude of colours with numerous cuts in varying scales in his oeuvre, the present example exquisitely and forcefully comprises the purest and most absolute essence of Fontana’s art.

Having advanced his intellectual theory of Spatialism in five formative manifestos between 1946 and 1952, Fontana was to forge unthinkable advancements in artistic ideology that sought to engage technology and find expression for a fourth dimension – infinite space. Created four years after Yuri Gagarin was launched into space and four years before Neil Armstrong would first set foot on the moon, the transgressive incision in Concetto Spaziale, Attesa is imbued with the artist’s unbridled enthusiasm for the incommensurability of space as endless and infinite, yet brimming with the promise of uncharted and boundless adventure – the ultimate realisation of his ground-breaking concept of Spatialism. As outlined by the artist: "The discovery of the Cosmos is that of a new dimension, it is the Infinite: thus I pierce this 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, Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection (and travelling), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, 2006, p. 19).

Although Concetto Spaziale, Attesa is utterly innovative and forward-looking, interestingly there is also a point of connection with the present work and those by the Renaissance masters of alabaster and Carrara marble such as Michelangelo, whose historic innovation sparked a revolt of form against material in order to transgress the resolute physicality of sculpture. In Fontana’s words, Michelangelo “wants to virtually abolish [marble], and he makes his last Pietàs as though he wanted only to make them from pure spirit, from pure light” (Lucio Fontana quoted in: Sarah Whitfield, ‘Handling Space’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Hayward Gallery, op. cit., 2000, p. 42). Indeed, the contemplative, votive aura that emanates from Concetto Spaziale, Attesa, certainly seems to echo that of Michelangelo’s meditative late Pietàs. The ethereal presentation of Fontana’s single-slash white tagli at the 1966 Venice Biennale only serves to exemplify this point further. Stunningly placed upon expansive, curving white walls in venerative alcoves, these tagli imbued the Italian pavilion with an unerring atmosphere of holiness; the gallery became a light-filled chapel and the traditional canvas was transformed into a consecrated object.

Fontana first embarked upon his tagli in the autumn of 1958 and developed the motif by bathing his canvases in an extensive palette of hues that ranged from bright yellows, vivid oranges and hot pinks through more muted brown and grey tones to shimmering baroque golds and silvers. Against this panoply of pigments, Fontana further diversified his practice by experimenting with different quantities of slashes that danced across the tagli’s serene monochrome grounds. The single elongated slash upon a pristine and monumental white canvas, however, was the purest paragon of the ideal incarnated by the tagli. Indeed, the colour white itself harnesses powerful connotations of innocence and purity, a chromatic signifier for pure light – a beam of white light holds within it the full spectrum of colour – energy and, particularly in the years following the Second World War, white came to be seen as synonymous with technological advancement. If Concetto Spaziale, Attesa’s snowy white ground represented the apogee of purity, then the forms in the present work distilled the artist’s great innovation – piercing the canvas – into its most elemental presentation. As is exquisitely articulated in the present work, the single slash preserves the greatest tension within the canvas flesh, heightening the viewer’s perception of the opposing dialogues whose dynamic marriages fill Concetto Spaziale, Attesa with symbolic interaction between light and dark and void and plane.

Compositionally striking and overwhelming in its beauty, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa embodies the artist's revolutionary Spatialist theory while engendering a unique dialogue between colour and form. Fontana offers an innovative interpretation of the artist's gesture: instead of letting it remain on the surface he makes it penetrate through the canvas – with the simple flick of a knife, Fontana initiated fissures in artistic convention that were to pierce the very meaning of art. Concetto Spaziale, Attesa represents the mature realisation of this conceptual conceit and is wholly representative of Fontana’s desire to broaden the phenomenological boundaries of human understanding.

Sotheby's. Contemporary Art Evening Auction. London | 30 Jun 2014 -http://www.sothebys.com/