MILAN.- Christie's will present the annual Milan Modern and Contemporary auction on 27 and 28 April. An essential date in the auction calendar, the Milan Modern and Contemporary sale provides an opportunity for international collectors to acquire the best of 20th century Italian art. This year's sale will feature works by the most acclaimed Italian artists, including Lucio Fontana, Enrico Castellani, Alberto Burri and Fausto Melotti, alongside a special section showcasing 1960s Italian Pop Art with key names such as Tano Festa, Giosetta Fioroni, Franco Angeli, Mimmo Rotella and Mario Schifano. As Miart confirms Milan as a cultural hub during this period, we are also pleased to be showcasing international highlights such as key jewellery highlights from our upcoming sale in Geneva on 17 May 2017. 

Renato Pennisi, Director and Senior Specialist, Head of Sale, Christie's Italy: "This season, our curated auction will offer a wide range of works of art, from Spatialism to the Pop art movement, passing through rediscovered masterpieces by Castellani, Uncini, Leoncillo, and Licini. We are pleased to present such a great variety of 20th century Italian art movements in Milan, as this city continues to be a key location to buy the very best of Italian Art”. 

Collectors and enthusiasts of Lucio Fontana’s work will be presented with a strong group of works by the artist, including key pieces from the Concetto Spaziale series. The four slashes in the pure white canvas of Concetto spaziale, Attese (1963-64), illustrated on page 1 left, captures Fontana’s pioneering concept of Spatialism with a pristine order and elegance (estimate: €500,000-700,000). In 1966, Fontana transcended the surface of another Concetto Spaziale, Attese, this time on a red canvas, (estimate: €1,000,000-1,500,000). ‘My cuts are above all a philosophical statement,’ said the artist. Further works by the artist, offered at all price points, will be offered, such as Concetto spaziale, attesa, from 1961 (estimate: €200,000-300,000). 


Lot 10. Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, Attese, firma e titolo l. fontana "Concetto spaziale" "ATTESE" (sul retro), idropittura su tela, cm 33,2x41,5. Eseguito nel 1963-64. Estimate EUR 500,000 - EUR 700,000 (USD 534,101 - USD 747,741). Price realised EUR 947,858. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Opera registrata presso la Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milano, n. 2145/1, come da autentica su fotografia.

Provenance: Collezione S. Casoli, Milano
Galleria Bergamini, Milano
Milano, Asta Sotheby's, 24 maggio 2012, lotto 35
Collezione privata, Milano
ivi acquisito dall'attuale proprietario

Literature: E. Crispolti, Fontana. Catalogo generale, Milano 1986, vol. II, p. 461, n. 63-64 T 5 (illustrato) 
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Milano 2006, vol. II, p. 646, n. 63-64 T 5 (illustrato) 

Note: The four slashes in the pure white canvas of Concetto spaziale, Attese (1963-64) capture Lucio Fontana’s pioneering concept of Spatialism with a pristine order and elegance. In contrast to his earlier celestial perforations of the buchi (‘holes’), the tagli (‘cuts’), begun in 1958-59,capture a sense of motion: of particles rippling in the wake of a meteor, or the sweeping arc of a comet mid-orbit. Where the buchi had permitted only a glimpse of the dark territory beyond the canvas, the tagli parted the curtain to reveal what Fontana would later describe as ‘the fourth dimension’. ‘Infinity passes through them, light passes through them’ he elaborated; ‘there is no need to paint’ (L. Fontana, quoted in E. Crispolti, ‘Spatialism and Informel. The Fifties,’ in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat. Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Milan, 1998, p. 146).

Fontana was an heir of the Futurists, obsessed with the new potential offered by advances in technology. In particular, the Space Age, barely conceivable in the 1940s when Fontana’s Spatialist movement first took shape, opened whole new avenues to him. Even then, the Manifesto Blanco, which was compiled largely under Fontana’s direction, had declared that ‘We live in the mechanical age. Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist’ (B. Arias, H. Cazeneuve & M. Fridman, Manifesto Blanco, Buenos Aires, 1946). Accordingly, when Fontana first began puncturing the canvas with his buchi he appeared to combine the ‘opening’ of the two dimensions with an act that violently proclaimed the redundancy of the canvas itself. This act of piercing very soon developed into something far more profound: with the slashes, rather than merely desecrating the support that had been traditionally associated with Western painting for centuries, Fontana created a visual idiom that transcended the canvas with a simple and confident beauty. Well before spaceflight was achieved in 1961, the Second Spatialist Manifesto had declared: ‘If the artist, locked in his tower, once represented himself and his astonishment and saw the landscape through his windows and then, having come down from the castles into the cities, he mixed with other men and saw from close-up the trees and the objects, now, today, we spatial artists have escaped from the cities, we have shattered our shell, our physical crust, and we have looked at ourselves from above, photographing the earth from rockets in flight’ (L. Fontana, Second Spatialist Manifesto, 1948, reproduced in E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Cataloge Generale, vol. 1, Milan 1986, p. 35). The assured, balletic cuts in the white surface of Concetto Spaziale, Attese convey this sense of unfolding Space Age wonder with exquisite and infinite clarity.


Lot 12. Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto Spaziale, [Attese], firma, titolo e iscrizione l. fontana "Concetto spaziale" vado a vedere la mostra di Soto (sul retro), idropittura su tela, cm 55,3x46,3. Eseguito nel 1966. Estimate EUR 1,000,000 - EUR 1,500,000 (USD 1,068,201 - USD 1,602,302). Price realised EUR 1,578,670.  © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Opera registrata presso la Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milano, n. 1900/140.

Provenance: Galerie Pierre, Stoccolma
Galerie Bleue, Stoccolma
Mikael Hedenius, Stoccolma
Collezione privata, Londra
Londra, asta Sotheby's, 11 febbraio 2005, lotto 40
ivi acquisito dall'attuale proprietario

Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Milano 2006, vol. II, p. 849, n. 66 T 140 (illustrato)

Note: Four sweeping slashes incise the spectacular red canvas of Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attese (1966). Neither destructive nor violent, these iconic cuts were an act of creation. Fontana transcended the surface of the canvas to reveal an enigmatic dark space beyond: with this apparently simple gesture, he invited the viewer to be consumed by the dark infinity beyond the picture plane. In doing so, Fontana opened up, both literally and figuratively, a whole new dimension of possibilities to advance the course of art in what he saw as a new ‘spatial’ era. ‘As a painter,’ he said, ‘while working on one of my perforated canvases, I do not want to make a painting: I want to open up space, create a new dimension for art, tie in with the cosmos as it endlessly expands beyond the confining plane of the picture’ (L. Fontana, quoted in J. van der Marck and E. Crispolti, La Connaissance, Brussels 1974, p. 7). In Concetto spaziale, Attese Fontana has applied red waterpaint to the surface of the canvas using a paintbrush, ensuring that the surface remained perfectly smooth, free of any brushstrokes or evidence of the artist’s own hand. Following this preparation, he carefully slashed through the canvas from top to bottom with a knife. The four vertical incisions’ subtly varied lengths and angles and their rhythmic placement across the width of the canvas demonstrate Fontana’s scrupulous attention to detail, and his extreme dedication to refining his technique to its most potent and lyrical. These elegant, almost balletic slices are not born of an impulsive and unplanned gesture: before making his move, Fontana would spend a long period contemplating the canvas with immense concentration. Attese translates as ‘waiting’ or ‘expectation:’ the slashes preserve a momentary gesture for a far-flung future, the new existence that Fontana anticipated for man in the universe. ‘My cuts are above all a philosophical statement,’ he said, ‘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’ (L. Fontana quoted in L. M. Barbero, ‘Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York’ in L. M. Barbero (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2006, p. 23).


Lot 8. Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), [Concetto spaziale, attesa], firmato l. fontana (sul retro), olio su tela, cm 24x18. Eseguito nel 1961. Estimate EUR 200,000 - EUR 300,000 (USD 213,640 - USD 320,460). Price realised EUR 426,225. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Opera registrata presso la Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milano, n. 1367/78, come da autentica su fotografia.

Provenance: Galleria del Triangolo, Roma
Collezione privata, Milano
Prato, Asta Farsetti, 5 giugno 1993, lotto 79
ivi acquisito dall'attuale proprietario

Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Milano 2006, vol. II, p. 627, n. 61 T 104 (illustrato)

Note: Penetrating a resplendent gold canvas, Fontana’s single, sweeping vertical incision in Concetto spaziale (1961) sees his iconic concept of ‘spatial art’ at its most pure and elegant.¹By using gold, Fontana was referencing not only the solar glory of stars and the sun, but also the religious art of the Baroque and Byzantine periods that he saw in Venice in the crucial year of 1961. Fontana’s visits to Venice and New York that year resulted in iridescent oil paintings and metal works inspired by the glimmering reflective surfaces he encountered: from the gilded glory of St. Mark’s to the futuristic splendour of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, Fontana felt he had glimpsed the machinations of the universe on earth. His recourse to silver and gold would continue throughout his practice, and works such as Concetto spaziale reflect his desire to incorporate this celestial radiance into his art. At the same time, he was creating a gleaming, metallic vision of the splendour of the cosmos, a magnificent abstract reliquary that celebrates the slice of pure space that lies at its heart.

This newly opulent quality further synthesised earth and the heavens in Fontana’s work: there is a Venetian sense of luxury in the surface of Concetto spaziale as well as a sense of sublime movement. It was this characteristic that had led Fontana to look at the Baroque throughout much of his career. Where his earlier ceramics echoed Baroque arabesques and figures in their attempt to convey a sense of motion in space, in¹Concetto spaziale¹this motion is captured in the slashed surface, the artist’s gesture preserved like the trail of a meteor. Its enigmatic presence is heightened by the use of gold: this Concetto spaziale is an earthbound object, but is cloaked in the radiance of suns, supernovas, the haloes of saints. As with all Fontana’s work, we are enthralled by his masterly, sensuous command of material even as we are sent on a cosmic journey, our minds sent reeling into the infinite, captivating mysteries of space.


The auction will also include firm favourites from the Post-War canon, including works by the ‘father of Minimalism’ Enrico Castellani. Dating from 1987, Enrico Castellani’s Superficie Bianca demonstrates the artist experimenting with his signature white surfaces in dynamic fashion, as waves of light and shade seem to wash over the face of the work (estimate: €500,000-800,000). Further examples of Castellani’s playful canvases include another Superficie bianca conceived in 1967 (estimate: €350,000-500,000), and Senza titolo (Superficie), created from silk in 1961 (estimate: €130,000-230,000) which generates a different and sensual effect when subjected to the artist’s signature surface tension. 



Lot 20. Enrico Castellani (N. 1930), Superficie bianca, firma, titolo e data - Enrico Castellani - Superficie bianca - 1987 - (sul retro), acrilico su tela, cm 150x200. Eseguito nel 1987. Estimate EUR 500,000 - EUR 800,000 (USD 534,101 - USD 854,561) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Opera registrata presso l'Archivio della Fondazione Enrico Castellani, Milano, n. 87-025.

Provenance: Galleria Niccoli, Parma
Kodama Gallery, Osaka 
Ivi acquisito dall’attuale proprietario nel 2007 c. 

Exhibited: Osaka, Kodama Gallery, Castellani, 1-30 giugno 1988, cat. (illustrato)

Note: Dating from 1987, Enrico Castellani’s Superficie Bianca demonstrates the artist experimenting with his signature white surfaces in dynamic fashion, as waves of light and shade seem to wash over the face of the work. Castellani’s earliest works introduced light, shade and a structural autonomy to the canvas by stretching it taut over mathematical, equidistant structures of nails; here however he eschews the totalised order and symmetry of those works, arranging his nails instead into diagonal vectors that form corridors of open space that gradually narrow and widen as they pass across the canvas. Castellani also plays with depth, subtly modifying the height of the nails of his framework, causing ripples of movement to pass across the contours of the work, while gradual variations of mottled light dance across the surface, shaping and re-shaping the canvas into interlocking geometric forms that dissolve as the eye moves around it.

Referred to as the ‘father of Minimalism’ by Donald Judd, Castellani’s first, pioneering Superfici (‘Surfaces’) achieved an architectural clarity and self-sufficiency that existed beyond the artist’s hand, erasing the final traces of figuration that lingered in the gestural painting of Abstract Expressionism or Arte Informel in the 1950s and carving out a blank, colourless space for the artwork to be considered not as an illusory, referential window onto something else, but as an object in and of itself. ‘Monochrome offers the last chance for painting to distinguish itself from the other arts’, he wrote in 1958, ‘the surface, which has, on various occasions, described, alluded and suggested, and has been the scene of idylls, dramas and raving, is now silent’ (E. Castellani, quoted in Enrico Castellani, exh. cat., Fondazione Prada, Milan, 2001, p.16). Since then Castellani has approached his Superfici with an immense single-mindedness, gradually and assiduously continuing to develop his style within the parameters of the series; while the 1970s saw the artist clinically explore the nature of the individual line in space, in the 1980s he began to produce the kind of work seen here, notable for the fluidity of its contours, its subtle irregularities and teeming visual fields. The Superficie have become for Castellani a fully-formed visual language within which to work – and works like this reflect the eloquence the artist has achieved in his mastery of that language.


Lot 6. Enrico Castellani (N. 1930), Senza titolo (Superficie), raso di seta a rilievo, cm 50 x 50. Eseguito nel 1961. Estimate EUR 130,000 - EUR 230,000 (USD 141,388 - USD 250,147) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Opera registrata presso l'Archivio della Fondazione Enrico Castellani, Milano, n. 61-040, come da autentica su fotografia in data 10 febbraio 2016.

Provenance: Galleria Schwarz, Milano
Collezione Lenz, Francoforte 
Collezione Merian, Krefeld
ivi acquisito dalla famiglia dell'attuale proprietario negli anni Settanta 

Exhibited: St. Gallen, Kunstmuseum, Sammlung T, 1988, n. 6 (illustrato)

Note: Conceived in 1961, Untitled (Surface) represents a definitive moment in Enrico Castellani’s career, as he sought to break through the conventional bounds of painting in order to examine the dynamic relationship between, space, surface and material through purely abstract means. Even at this early stage in his artistic career, his intentions were fully and clearly defined, as he continued to experiment with different permutations of the nail protusions and perforations that would characterise the artist’s distinct idiom throughout his career. Using a piece of coloured silk placed on top of the canvas, Castellani imbues Untitled (Surface) with a striking sense of materiality and sensuality. Leaving the silk fabric in its original state, the artist draws attention to the soft, flowing texture of the material, as it is shaped and imbued with a new sense of tension as the nails push against the surface of the canvas. Unlike Castellani’s traditional interventions in canvas, the application of the silk generates a different effect when subjected to this surface tension. The material ripples around each point, creasing in a distinct pattern that differs from the rigid straight crevassing usually created in canvas. This is due to the differing densities of the material, as the lightness of the silk catches and responds to the presence of the nails in a highly unique manner. The play of light that results from these interventions reveals the dynamic modulation of the surface, casting deep shadows in the alternating areas of relief and depression, an effect accentuated by the monochromatic colouring of the work. 

Castellani spoke of the need for a highly simplified ‘constant monotona’ (recurrent feature), capable of being activated or modified in relation to light, in his work. Conceived as a dynamic factor, the line of nails at the centre of the current composition fills such a role, its highly regulated structure and geometric patterning running the length of the canvas. Dividing the canvas into two, this line introduces a profound sense of symmetry to the work, the minimal, relatively constant interventions into the surface creating the impression that the canvas could easily fold over on itself at any moment. Punctuated from the front and raised from the back, the rippling material is underpinned by this structure so that it shapes the canvas, creating a ridge that expands both horizontally and vertically from the nail at the point that it connects with the silk. While one of the defining features of Untitled (Surface) is its apparently authorless construction, it is nonetheless a resolutely hand-made object, in that the struts and bars that act as the foundations of the work have been created by Castellani himself, the nails hammered into their set pattern and the canvas stretched and pulled over their framing by the artist. Although the majority of these elements remain invisible behind the canvas, their presence points to the handicraft that underpins these architectural structures, generating an inherent tension between the hand-made and the autonomous, between the artist’s presence and his absence. 

As this line of protrusions stretches to the very perimeters of the canvas, extending from the upper edge to the lower reaches of the painting, it creates the impression that it could continue indefinitely beyond the boundaries of the picture plane, stretching infinitely through space. Thus, Untitled (Surface) may be viewed as merely a small fragment of a greater whole, which aims to convey to the viewer a sense of this infinite, unlimited space. This was a constant concern of Castellani’s throughout his career, with the artist repeatedly referencing it in his writings. ‘For the artist,’ Castellani declared, ‘the need to find new modes of expression is animated by the need for the absolute. To meet this requirement, the only possible compositional criterion is that through the possession of an elementary entity – a line, an indefinitely repeatable rhythm and a monochrome surface – it is necessary to give the works themselves the concreteness of infinity that may endure the conjugation of time, the only conceivable dimension – the yardstick and the justification of our spiritual need’ (E. Castellani, ‘Continuità e nuovo’, Azimuth no. 2, Milan, 1960).

Further highlights of the auction include a selection of works from the important Collection of Ovidio Jacorossi. Consisting of key works of Italian art of the early 20th century, the Jacorossi collection is an active institution, receptive to new artistic tendencies and attentive to the conservation of the works. The future of the collection is focused on the opening of a new space in the historic centre of Rome devoted to exhibitions, screenings, performance, meetings and debates, but also a place of creative conviviality. 

The collection features Giosetta Fioroni’s Liberty, executed in 1965, (estimate: €60,000-80,000). She was the sole female member of the Scuola di Piazza del Popolo, a group of artists that emerged in Rome during the 1960s. Fioroni was a key practitioner of an alternative and distinctly Italian mode of exploring Post-War consumer society, and at the heart of her practice lay the craft of drawing.


Lot 29. Giosetta Fioroni (N. 1932), Liberty, titolo, firma e data Liberty G. Fioroni 1965 (sul retro), matita e smalti su tela, cm 146x113,5. Eseguito nel 1965. Autentica dell'artista su fotografia in data 21 maggio 2009. Estimate EUR 60,000 - EUR 80,000 (USD 64,092 - USD 85,456) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Francesco Lo Savio’s Spazio luce (1960) glows with a mysterious luminosity, a panel of golden brown – or brown-gold – that seems to emit light from the surface of the canvas itself (estimate €350,000-500,000). Although tragically dying in 1963 at the age of 28, Lo Savio achieved a remarkable amount in a career that spanned only four years and produced a revolutionary body of work that explored the relationship between the visual and physical in radical new ways.  


Lot 26. Francesco Lo Savio (1935-1963), Spazio luce, firmato e datato LO SAVIO 1960 (sul retro), acrilico su tela, cm 110x130. Eseguito nel 1960Estimate EUR 350,000 - EUR 500,000 (USD 373,870 - USD 534,101) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Perfectly conjuring the texture of the streets of Post-War Europe, the tattered, dechiré remains of the posters in Mimmo Rotella’s Diciamo... informale from 1957 convey a sense of anxiety, as does their accretion (estimate: €80,000-120,000). At the same time the nature of posters themselves lends a hint of the wonders of the big screen, of advertising, of evenings on the town and entertainment. Appearing as a readymade relic, it is a political warning as well as an emotive depiction of the horrors of the recent past.  


Lot 27. Mimmo Rotella (1918-2006), Diciamo... informale, firmato Rotella (in basso a destra); firmato e datato Rotella 1957 (sul retro), décollage su tela, cm 76x107,5. Eseguito nel 1957. Estimate EUR 80,000 - EUR 120,000 (USD 85,456 - USD 128,184) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Further highlights by Pop practitioners will be coming from other private collections. These include Mario Schifano’s Paessagio anemico, from 1965, in which the artist deconstructs landscape painting with conceptual agility, using a number of visual strategies that subvert the norms of the genre (estimate: €120,000-200,000). Another work executed from 1965 is Franco Angeli’s Silver Star (estimate: €35,000-50,000). Recently exhibited in the Italian Pop Art retrospective at the Macro Museum in 2016, this work by Franco Angeli is a brilliant example of the artist’s artistic ability in the most Pop period of his career. Tano Festa’s vibrant work is also represented in the sale with key paintings. A main highlight, entitled Biasule (estimate: €80,000,120,000), reflects the artists’ powerful sense of quotidian simplicity; its blocky clarity anticipates his later reconstructions of windows and shutters, transforming them through the artistic process into geometric structures rather than objets trouvés.  


Lot 14. Mario Schifano (1934-1998), Landscape anemic, title, signature and date Landscape anemic Schifano 1965 (on the back), enamel and graphite on canvas, cm 160x130. Executed in 1965. Opera recorded in the Archive Mario Schifano, Rome, n. 03342161217 as an authentication on photograph dated December 22, 2016. Estimate EUR 80,000 - EUR 120,000 (USD 85,456 - USD 128,184) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.


Lot 15. Franco Angeli (1935-1988), Stella d’argento, firma, anno e titolo FRANCO ANGELI 1965 “STELLA D’ARGENTO”(sul retro), smalto su tela e tulle, cm 80x80. Eseguito nel 1965. Opera registrata presso l'Archivio Franco Angeli, Roma, n. P-090317/965, come da autentica in data 14 marzo 2017. Estimate EUR 80,000 - EUR 120,000 (USD 85,456 - USD 128,184) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

Artists that represent the full breadth of 20th century Italian art also include Giuseppe Uncini, Leoncillo Leonardi and Osvaldo Licini. Executed in 1961, Cementarmato parabolico is a striking example of Giuseppe Uncini’s decisive experimentation with reinforced cement, which proposed a radical and unique response to the crisis of painting perceived in Post-War Italy (estimate: €180,000-250,000). Executed in 1960-62, San Sebastiano by Leoncillo displays the baroque freedom of form and vivid enthusiasm for art history that can be found in Fontana’s ceramics (estimate: €40,000-60,000). Fontana - Leoncillo – Forma della materia, a recent exhibition at the Fondazione Carriero, Milan, placed the artists side by side to illuminating effect, aiming to highlight Leoncillo’s importance in the canon of Post-War Italian art.


Lot 13. Giuseppe Uncini (1929-2008), Cementarmato parabolico, firma, data e titolo Uncini 1961 "Cementoarmato" parabolico (sul retro), cemento e ferro, cm 183,5x116,5x16,5. Realizzata nel 1961. Opera registrata presso l'Archivio Giuseppe Uncini, Trevi, n. 61-004. Estimate EUR 180,000 - EUR 250,000 (USD 192,276 - USD 267,050) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.


Lot 11. Leoncillo (1915-1968), San Sebastian, signed Leoncillo (bottom), painted ceramic, cm 55x16x11,5. Built in 1960-62. Authentic E. Mascelloni of photography on February 17, 2017. The work will be included. Estimate EUR 40,000 - EUR 60,000 (USD 42.728 - 64.092) © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.