Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, 1966-1967

Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, signed 'l. fontana' (lower right); signed and titled 'l. fontana "Concetto Spaziale"' (on the reverse), waterpaint on canvas, 39 3/8 x 31 7/8in. (100 x 81cm.). Executed in 1966-1967. Estimate £200,000 – £300,000 ($313,600 - $470,400). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

ProvenanceTeresita Rasini Fontana, Milan.
Galleria Internazionale, Milan.
Colavito, Milan.
Private Collection, Milan.
Galleria Gian Ferrari, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the second half of the 1980s.


LiteratureE. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 66-67 B 11, p. 148 (illustrated, p. 149).
E. Crispolti, Fontana. Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1986, no. 66-67 B 11 (illustrated, p. 507).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 66-67 B 11 (illustrated, p. 697).

NotesWhen I hit the canvas I sensed that I had made an important gesture. It was, in fact, not an incidental hole, it was a conscious hole: by making a hole in the picture I found a new dimension in the void. By making holes in the picture I invented the fourth dimension’ (L. Fontana, as quoted in G. Livi, ‘Incontro con Lucio Fontana’, in Vanitá, vol6, no. 13, 1962, p.55). 

Executed between 1966-1967, Concetto spaziale is a definitive example of the artist’s lasting engagement with his trailblazing buchi, or 'holes', that he first began in 1949. Inviting the viewer to engage with the infinite space beyond the picture plane, Fontana violently punctures the matte green surface and imbues the very materiality of the canvas with the multi-dimensionality of space. As is characteristic for the buchi from the late 1950s onwards, the explosive gouged openings are distributed geometrically in rows and clustered within a thinly drawn egg-like oval shape – the very universal symbolic form of creation, regeneration and fertility that the artist most prominently explored in his acclaimed Fine di Dio series from 1963–1964. By creating multiple perforations that emphasise the contrast between the material and the void, Fontana redefines the concept of the artwork in terms of space, movement, temporality and the notion of the eternal. Strange, mysterious and imposing, this punctured monochrome canvas alludes to a cratered moonscape or the constellations of the galaxies around us to invoke the fundamental mystery of the cosmos.

Concetto spaziale perfectly captures the spirit of Spatialism, the theory that Fontana along with other avant-garde artists pioneered as a grandiose call to synthetise art, science and technology. For Fontana, the dawn of Space age in the late 1950s and early '60s marked the beginning of an entirely new era in which the artist, like the scientist, would now have to contend with and adapt to a vision of the world constituted solely by time, matter, energy and, above all, space. Faced by recent technological advancements that revealed space as an indeterminate cosmos without confines or external points of reference, Fontana sought to unify the spatial and temporal dimensions of the canvas by abandoning the traditional materials of painting and sculpture and instead pursued the penetrating action of piercing the canvas. Speaking of the buchi in the last interview before his death, Fontana stated that ‘...if any of my discoveries are important the buchi (hole) is. By the buchi I meant going outside the limitations of a picture frame and being free in one's conception of art. (...) I make a hole in the canvas in order to leave behind me the old pictorial formulae, the painting and the traditional view of art and I escape symbolically, but also materially, from the prison of the flat surface’ (L. Fontana, quoted in T. Trini, ‘The last interview given by Fontana’, Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Sperone Westwater, New York, 2000, p. 3). 

Christie's. POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY ART DAY AUCTION, 1 July 2015 - London, King Street