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LONDON.- Christie’s season of Post-War & Contemporary Art auctions will be highlighted by the 15th edition of The Italian Sale, which will take place on 16 October in King Street following the Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction. Subsequent to the record breaking successes of the Italian Sale last year, which realised £27.5 million, this year’s edition will continue to represent a rich array of works across all artistic movements within Italian Art, with key works by Modern and Post-War artists such as Giorgio Morandi, Lucio Fontana, Alighiero Boetti as well as prominent Arte Povera artists such as Luciano Fabro, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Giulio Paolini. The sale is highlighted by Alberto Burri’s Rosso Plastica M1, (£2,000,000 – £3,000,000), a masterpiece of Italian 20th century art, especially in anticipation of the artist’s great retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York which will be held from 9 October to 6 January 2016. 

Created in 1961, this was one of the earliest of Burri's Plastiche, one of his most recognised series, which enjoyed a distinguished exhibition history, including a show at the Marlborough Galleries both in Rome in 1962-63 and then in New York in 1964, followed by a show in 1965 at the Museu de Arte Moderna in São Paulo and an exhibition at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, in Lisbon, Portugal in 1966. 

Alberto Burri (1915-1995), Rosso Plastica M1, 1961

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Lot 128. Alberto Burri (1915-1995), Rosso Plastica M1, signed, titled and dated 'ROSSO PLASTICA M.1 BURRI 61' (on the reverse), plastic, acrylic and combustion on canvas, 46 x 52 ¼in. (117 x 132.5cm.). Executed in 1961. Estimate £2,000,000 – £3,000,000 ($3,072,000 - $4,608,000)Price realised GBP 3,442,500. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: Marlborough Galleria d’Arte, Rome.Galleria La Tartaruga, Rome.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1969.

Literature: C. Brandi, Burri, Rome 1963, no. 44 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
J. Mauricío,"Bienal tôda a arte do mundo em São Paulo", in Manchete, Rio De Janeiro, 18 September 1965 (illustrated, p. 31).
M. Calvesi, Alberto Burri, Milan 1971 (illustrated in colour, p. 52).
M. Calvesi, Alberto Burri, New York 1975, p. 29 (illustrated in colour, p. 52).
M. Volpi Orlandini, "Alberto Burri", in Storia dell'arte, Florence 1980, (illustrated, p. 406).
Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini (ed.), Burri: contributi al catalogo sistematico, Città di Castello 1990, no. 705, p. 168 (illustrated in colour, p. 169).
Alberto Burri, exh. cat., Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1996-1997 (illustrated, p. 293). 
G. Serafini, Burri, Milan 1999, no. 120, p. 244 (illustrated in colour, p. 131).

Exhibited: Rome, Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Burri, 1962-1963 (illustrated in colour on the cover and illustrated p. 15).
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Alberto Burri, 1964, no. 3 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, Artistas Italianos de Hoje na 8a Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo-Brazil, 1965, no. 20.
Lisboa, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Arte Contemporânea Italiana, 1966, no. 4.

Notes: When Alberto Burri first showed his Plastiche at the Marlborough Gallery in Rome at the end of 1962, Rosso Plastica M 1 was selected to adorn the cover of the catalogue, a tribute to its importance. Created in 1961, this was one of the earliest of Burri's Plastiche, one of his most recognised series. With works such as Rosso Plastica M 1, which changed the landscape of artistic practice in the post-war world, Burri established his own importance and influence. It is no coincidence that his importance is being celebrated in a retrospective taking place at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, being held from 9 October to 6 January next year. Rosso Plastica M 1 itself has also enjoyed a prominence within Burri's work, having enjoyed a distinguished history, featuring in a number of subsequent lifetime exhibitions of the artist's works as well as several important monographs dedicated to him. 

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The present lot illustrated on the cover of the Marlborough Galleria d’Arte exhibition catalogue Burri, 1962-1963.

Looking at Rosso Plastica M 1, it is easy to see why: the picture has an absorbing energy: an intense, red core is surrounded by molten and charred plastic, giving the impression of a dark background, while a bar of red hovers at the top. In compositional terms, it recalls the pictures of some of Burri's mighty contemporaries across the Atlantic, for instance Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko. Yet in terms of its sheer materiality, this is definitely something Other: in the place of the traditional oil on canvas is the glimmer of plastic, a relatively new substance at the time of execution which Burri has not only appropriated but also transformed.

Mark Rothko, 1957 #20, 1957

Mark Rothko, 1957 #20, 1957. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra © Bridgeman Images © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko ARS, NY and DACS, London.

The relationship between Burri and the Abstract Expressionists is a significant one. After all, it was in the United States that he enjoyed a lot of his early recognition, due in part to the support of the legendary museum director James Johnson Sweeney, who also wrote on Burri's work. Like the Abstract Expressionists, Burri was taking on the entire notion and legacy of painting. But unlike them, he was pushing his deconstruction of painting to a far greater extreme: over the years since the end of the Second World War he had gradually removed the paints, the brushes and even the canvas from the equation. Now, in works such as Rosso Plastica M 1, he was using fire, an element usually associated with destruction, as a force of creation. He was deftly controlling the flames of his blowtorch, understanding how to use them to either melt, char or blister his material, and thus controlling it as he ushered into existence new, vibrant works such as this.

The connection with the Abstract Expressionists must have been evident even in 1962, when Rosso Plastica M 1 was first shown alongside its sister pictures at the Marlborough Gallery in Rome. After all, the exhibition previous to it had shown the works of Jackson Pollock. Like Burri, Pollock had made great headway in reinventing painting, yet he had remained tethered to the paint and canvas. Burri, by contrast, since the late 1940s, had used myriad other techniques. He had begun with sewing and stitching, creating canvas collages such as his famous SZ1, which comprised fragments of a sack used as part of a food shipment from the United States; it was even emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes. Burri had taken this material, an analogue for the canvas beloved of painters, and had re-used it in a new, dynamic manner, incorporating it within an abstract composition that played as much upon contrasts of texture as it did colour. Meanwhile, his stitching provided a counterpoint to the machismo of Pollock's flung paint. Over the intervening years, Burri made a number of interventions with the traditional formula of paint and canvas. He disrupted the picture plane in his Gobbi by using other elements to upset the flatness of the canvas. And from 1954, he began to use fire in his mark-making process. In this, he used various materials, such as wood, canvas, paint and eventually plastic, as inRosso Plastica M 1.

Burri's own varied experiences in the United States had played their part in his artistic formation, and this is evident inRosso Plastica M 1 as well as in all his other works. It was while serving as a Prisoner-of-War in a camp in Hereford, Texas that Burri had abandoned his medical vocation, which had seen him serving as an army doctor until his capture, and turning instead to art. While in Hereford, he had painted a number of works that were figurative yet which showed an interest in composition that would find itself distilled down to the point of abstraction. This was clearly the case with Texas, one of the few early works that he did not destroy. In it, the presence of red was crucial: over the coming years, this was to become a vital part of Burri's own artistic heraldry. For a period of time around the period that Rosso Plastica M 1 was created, Burri pared down his palette to a small range of colours, mainly white, black and red.

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Lava lake. Photo by Tom Pfeiffer / VolcanoDiscovery via Getty Images.

The red that sings so vibrantly in Rosso Plastica M 1 therefore taps into a tradition within Burri's own works: it had appeared in Texas, and would also serve as a vital element in many of his Sacchi in subsequent years. But in hisPlastiche, it appeared to reach an apotheosis. Looking at Rosso Plastica M 1, the viewer is seduced by the incredible variety of effects that occur upon the surface. He has used plastic, as well as acrylic paint, harnessing a number of visual effects. In the darker areas, for instance, the intense red that underlies the plastic is glimpsed through the charred brown. The palette is at once organic, reminiscent of blood and the earth, and yet highly modern. The richness of the red speaks of the manmade, of the artificial, recalling the epiphany that one of Burri's artistic contemporaries, Karel Appel, had enjoyed when seeing a fragment of red plastic amidst the damage-strewn landscape of Europe. Here, Burri has channelled that intensity, creating a work that is near monochrome. 

This rigour regarding the palette allows Burri to bring the viewer's attention to the material itself. While previously, he had allowed contrasts between colours and materials to emphasise their properties, including such varied elements as wood, sackcloth, paint and gold within the fabric of his works, in works such as Rosso Plastica M 1 he was removing the distractions, instead insisting upon the viewer's appreciation of the red surface and the charred plastic alone. It stands before us, a tribute to its own existence, a sliver of the world placed on a pedestal. And at the same time, the interventions of the artist himself, so viscerally captured within the seared and blistered surface, speak of a specific moment in time, preserved like the material itself for posterity.

Yves Klein, Untitled (fre-color painting), 1962

Yves Klein, Untitled (fre-color painting), 1962. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. Digital Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence © Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2015.

Burri's use of monochrome in Rosso Plastica M 1 reveals a general drift away from the more complex compositions that he had earlier created, towards a more rigorous economy of means. At the same time, it chimes with developments in the European avant garde that were taking place at the time. Artists such as Yves Klein, Enrico Castellani, Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni were all embracing the monochrome as a vehicle, albeit for different reasons. Burri's place alongside these artists was already cemented. Indeed, only the year before Rosso Plastica M 1 was created, Manzoni had declared that:

'... the truly vital thing that great artists like Burri, Fontana, Picasso, and Pollock give us is not so much material, a gesture, or a mark. It is an attitude toward life, the will and power to make art, the freedom to invent. This is the only lesson we can assimilate, the only one that regards us' (Manzoni, quoted in Azimuth, 1960, quoted in Germano Celant,Piero Manzoni, exh. cat., Milan & London, 1998, p. 312).

That 'freedom to invent' is clearly present in Rosso Plastica M 1, in the wealth of techniques that Burri has so deftly used to celebrate the red, the plastic and the fire, to create this pulsing beacon of life and vitality. This work clearly demonstrates the continuing validity of Sweeney's words from more than half a decade earlier, when he said of Burri: 'Out of a wound, beauty pours forth' (Sweeney, quoted in C. Christov-Bakargiev (ed.), Burri 1915-1995: Retrospektive, exh. cat., Rome, 1996, p. 265). 

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Following Burri’s exploration, the sale will also feature an important selection of works by Lucio Fontana, including the present work: Concetto spaziale, Attese (estimate: £1,000,000 – 1,500,000). With five slashes rhythmically slicing through the brilliant scarlet canvas, Concetto spaziale, Attese is from one Lucio Fontana’s largest and most important series, the tagli or cuts, which he first began in 1958. Executed in 1964, this work displays Fontana’s most iconic gesture: the cut, which served as the embodiment of the artist’s Spatial explorations. With this emphatic gesture, Fontana, one of the central pioneers of post-war avant-garde art, was reflecting the technical and scientific developments of the space age, exploring the infinite in a quest to understand the universe.  

Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, Attese, 1964

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Lot 108. Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, Attese, signed, titled and inscribed ‘l. Fontana “Concetto Spaziale” ATTESE Oggi è una bella giornata' (on the reverse), waterpaint on canvas, 24 1/8 x 19 ¾in. (61.3 x 50.1cm.). Executed in 1964. Estimate £2,000,000 – £3,000,000 ($3,072,000 - $4,608,000)Price realised GBP 2,658,500. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Provenance: Galerie Pierre, Stockholm.
Galerie Bengt Tornvall, Stockholm.
Private Collection, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1990s. 

Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 64 T 170 (illustrated, p. 732).

Exhibited: Stockholm, Galerie Tornvall, Fontana, 1990 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).

Notes: ‘In future there will no longer be art the way we understand it… No, art, the way we think about it today will cease…there’ll be something else. I make these cuts and these holes, these Attese and these Concetti… Compared to the Spatial era I am merely a man making signs in the sand. I made these holes. But what are they? They are the mystery of the Unknown in art, they are the Expectation of something that must follow’ (Fontana quoted in L. M. Barbero, ‘Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York’ in L. M. Barbero (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., New York, 2006, p. 47). 

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Piero della Francesca, Federigo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, circa 1465. Galleria degli Uffzi, Florence. Digital Image: © Bridgeman Images

With five slashes rhythmically slicing through the brilliant scarlet canvas, Concetto spaziale, Attese is from one of Lucio Fontana’s largest and most important series, the tagli or cuts, which he first began in 1958. Executed in 1964, this work displays Fontana’s most iconic gesture: the cut, which served as the embodiment of the artist’s Spatial explorations. With this emphatic gesture, Fontana, one of the central pioneers of post-war avant-garde art, was reflecting the technical and scientific developments of the space age, exploring the infinite in a quest to understand the universe. Glowing against the rich red of its monochrome field, in Concetto spaziale, Attese the rhythmic sequence of bold and elegant slashes not only creates a rippling dynamism that flows through the surface of the canvas, but by perforating the flat picture plane, Fontana reveals to the viewer a limitless and mysterious dark void, a new and unknown dimension. 

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Giacomo Balla, Dynamic Expansion + Speed, 1913. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome. Digital Image: © Bridgeman Images © DACS, 2015

In Concetto spaziale, Attese Fontana has applied red waterpaint to the surface of the canvas using a paint brush, carefully ensuring that the surface remained perfectly smooth, free of any brushstrokes or evidence of the artist’s own hand. Following this preparation, Fontana, with methodical care and precision, slashed through the canvas from top to bottom with a knife. The subtly varying lengths of each of the five slashes in Concetto spaziale, Attese, and their rhythmic placement across the width of the canvas demonstrates Fontana’s scrupulous attention to detail and his extreme dedication to refining the minute details of his technique. The elegant, almost balletic slices are the result not of an impulsive and unplanned gesture, but instead are born from a period of immense concentration and contemplation spent before he sliced the blade through the canvas. In describing his technique Fontana stated, ‘I need a lot of concentration. That means I don’t just walk into my studio take off my jacket, and boom, I make three or fourtagli. No, sometimes I leave the canvas there propped up for weeks before I am sure what I will do with it, and only when I feel certain do I begin, and it is rare that I waste a canvas; I really need to feel in shape for doing these things’ (Fontana quoted in P. Gottschaller, Lucio Fontana: The Artist’s Materials, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 82).  

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Jackson Pollock, Blue Poles : Number 11, 1952. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Digital Image: © Bridgeman Images © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2015

The iconic gesture of the cut had developed as a logical continuation of Fontana’s earlier artistic explorations. In 1947, Fontana returned to Italy from Milan and emerged as a pioneer of post-war avant-garde art with the foundation of Spazialismo ‘Spatialism’, a movement which sought to rejuvenate and revolutionise art. Awed and intrigued by the monumental leaps in science, technology, quantum physics and space travel, Fontana conceived of an art that would emulate to the spirit of the time, embodying the new conception of space as an indeterminate universe without confines or limits. By puncturing, piercing, slicing or slashing the canvas, Fontana found a way of invoking this infinite space; therefore creating a new form of art that was freed from tradition and in keeping with the times. ‘I make a hole in the canvas’, the artist explained, ‘in order to leave behind 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 (Fontana quoted in T. Trini, ‘The last interview given by Fontana’, in W. Beeren and N. Serota (eds.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Paris, 1987, p. 34).  

Following his buchi or ‘holes’, works in which he deliberately punctured the canvas creating a constellation of small stabs, in 1958 Fontana first vertically sliced the canvas, revealing a thin strip of darkness behind, a dramatic glimpse into the mysterious space beyond. In contrast to his buchi and barocchi of the mid-1950s – the latter of which Fontana punctured holes as well as adding thick painterly impasto and other materials to the richly textured surface of the canvas – the slash has a dramatic yet serene and minimal elegance. It has been suggested that Fontana had first cut through the canvas in a gesture of anger and frustration. Jan van der Marck claimed that Fontana had become ‘irritated by his own indulgence in surface embellishment. In frustration he slashed into an unsuccessful canvas and suddenly realised the potential of that gesture’ (A. White, Lucio Fontana: Between Utopia and Kitsch, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 2011, p. 208). In a desire to expand his spatial explorations, the cut served as an absolute and final gesture free from embellishment or excess. At first, the artist marked the surface of his pictures with large sequences of small slashes, gradually developing his process and technique, lengthening the cuts and reducing their number on the canvas. These first tagli were exhibited in a one-man show of the artist’s work at the Galleria del Naviglio, Milan in February 1959. By 1964, the year that Fontana executed the present work, he had perfectly honed his technique creating works like Concetto spaziale, Attese in which the dramatic impact of the elongated and rhythmically poised cuts are heightened by the pristine monochrome surface of the violated canvas.  

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For Fontana these cuts were not an impulsive gesture, nor an inherently destructive act, but instead represented the synthesis and culmination of his Spatial explorations. ‘It’s not true that I made holes in the canvas in order to destroy it, no, I made holes in order to discover’, Fontana explained, ‘to find the cosmos of an unknown dimension’ (Fontana quoted in M. Gale and R. Miracco, Beyond Painting: Burri, Fontana, Manzoni, exh. cat., London, 2005-6, p. 38). 
Every Attesa or ‘expectation’, a word affixed to the title of Fontana’s slash paintings, possesses a subtle dimension of the infinite beyond the surface, evoking not just the immeasurable space beyond the surface of the earth, but also the vastness of the human mind. Opening up the boundaries previously instilled by the confines of the canvas, Fontana was likewise seeking to expand the confines of human consciousness, leading the viewer into a new realm of heightened spiritual awareness. Speaking of the spiritual implications of his slashes, Fontana stated, ‘My cuts are above all a philosophical statement, an act of faith in the infinite, an affirmation of spirituality. When I sit down to contemplate one of my cuts, I sense all at once an enlargement of the spirit, I feel like a man freed from the shackles of matter, a man at one with the immensity of the present and of the future’ (Fontana quoted in L. M. Barbero, ‘Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York’ in L. M. Barbero (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., New York, 2006, p. 23).

The Sale features a rich selection of Arte Povera works, with the present highlights illustrated from left to right: Luciano Fabro’s Italia dell’Emigrante, a silhouette of Italy made out of long winding strips of copper and suspended on a ceiling overhanging the viewer (executed in 1981, estimate: £600,000 - £800,000). Coming to the market for the first time, this sculpture was acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1981; Giulio Paolini’s Casa di Lucrezio, executed in 1981–1984 (estimate: £150,000 - 200,000). The Casa di Lucrezio works were all inspired by the drawing of a labyrinth found on a pillar in the ‘Casa di Lucrezio’ in Pompeii. The significance and meaning of this classical labyrinth - evidently of some importance for the citizens of Pompeii in A.D. 79 - is unknown having been lost in the passage of time. As such it served as an ideal prompt for Paolini, whose art centres around the concept and articulation of human creativity as an eternal open-ended continuum - one that exists beyond the confines of time, place and medium; and Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Lei e Lui Abbracciati (Michelangelo e Maria), from the artist’s renowned mirror paintings series (estimate: £800,000 - £1,200,000). 

Luciano Fabro (1936–2007), Italia dell’emigrante (Italy of the Emigrant), 1981

Luciano Fabro (1936–2007), Italia dell’emigrante (Italy of the Emigrant), signed, titled and dated ‘Luciano Fabro XI l’Italia dell’emigrante’ (on a copper band), copper, 55 1/8 x 69 ¾ x 31 1/8in. (140 x 177 x 79cm.). Executed in 1981. Estimate £600,000 – £800,000 ($921,600 - $1,228,800). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

What needs to be understood is that we are moving from the idea of an art that is useful to society, and provides some of its members with spiritual elevation, to the idea of art as a basic necessity. Art is recovering its position as a fundamental concept and, as always, understanding fundamental concepts is hard work.’ (Luciano Fabro, Lecture to Trinity College, Dublin, 30 August, 1988, quoted in Che fare? Arte Povera- The Historic Years, exh. cat., Vaduz, 2010, p. 122) 

Giulio Paolini (B

Giulio Paolini (B. 1940), Casa di Lucrezio, plaster casts, fabric, incised plaster boards and plinths; each plaster cast: 19 ¾ x 11 ¾ x 11 ¾in. (50 x 30 x 30cm.); each plinth: 47 ¼ x 11 ¾ x 11 ¾in. (120 x 30 x 30cm.); overall dimensions variable. Executed in 1981–1984Estimate £150,000 – £200,000 ($230,400 - $307,200). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

‘Once you have found your way out of the labyrinth, you are free to imagine innumerable other labyrinths, all of which lead back to the starting point.’ (Paolini quoted in Arte Povera in collezione, exh. cat., Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Ate Contmeporanea, Turin, 2001, p. 212).

Michelangelo Pistoletto (b

Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933), Lei e lui abbracciati (Michelangelo e Maria) (Her and him hugging (Michelangelo and Maria)), signed and titled 'Pistoletto 1968 Lei e lui abbracciati' (on the reverse), painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel, 90 5/8 x 47 ¼in. (230.2 x 120cm.). Executed in 1968. Estimate £800,000 – £1,200,000 ($1,228,800 - $1,843,200). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

The mirror paintings could not live without an audience. They were created and re-created according to the movement and to the interventions they reproduced. The step from the mirror paintings to theatre—everything is theatre—seems simply natural…. It is less a matter of involving the audience, of letting it participate, as to act on its freedom and on its imagination, to trigger similar liberation mechanisms in people.” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, interview with G. Boursier, in Sipario, Milan, April 1969, 17).

Reflecting the legacy of Arte Povera, Christie’s Italian Sale will offer a selection of works by Mario Merz, Giovanni Anselmo and Giulio Paolini from the collection ‘Double Vision’ from an important Italian Private Collection. Showcasing the passion, curiosity and vision of a remarkable Italian collector, this selection captures the diverse currents of the exciting and multifaceted international art scene during the 1970s and 1980s. Presented as a stand-alone single owner auction within First Open/LDN in September, with additional lots spread across The Italian Sale and Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening, Day and Amsterdam auctions throughout October and November, Double Vision explores the consolidation of one of art history’s most enduring themes: the mimetic relationship between art and life. The group of Arte Povera works which feature in the Italian Sale encapsulates this concept of double vision: blurring the boundaries between art and life, as seen in the work of Mario Merz, with his Piccolo Caimano executed in 1979 (estimate: £500,000 – £800,000) which broke down centuries-old pictorial convention, radically expanding and refiguring the possibilities of art. Following the record breaking result of a similar work by the artist sold last year at Christie’s sale ‘Eyes Wide Open: An Italian Vision’ in February 2014, Piccolo Caimano is a rare work with great provenance, an opportunity for discerning collectors not to miss.

Mario Merz (1925-2003), Piccolo caimano, 1979

Mario Merz (1925-2003), Piccolo caimano, taxidermied caiman crocodilus and neon; caiman: 5 7/8 x 23¼in. (15 x 59cm.); each neon number: 5 7/8 x 7 1/8in. (15 x 18cm.); overall dimensions variable. Executed in 1979Estimate £500,000 – £800,000 ($768,000 - $1,228,800). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

Mario Merz, Untitled, 1982

Mario Merz, Untitled, 1982. World record price for the artist at auction, London, Eyes Wide Open sale, February 2014 © DACS, 2015

These figures are mythical not domestic…. (In the crocodile) I wanted ...a slightly unsettling image and presence of a ghost rather than of a skin. These animals made me feel light in life, because they have something ancient about them, a sense of the unknown, of unavailability as far as I am concerned. They are absolutely solitary creatures, they do not participate in the collective life of the street. The animals are all those things combined.’ (Mario Merz quoted inMario Merz exh.cat. Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1989, p. 54)