Here at Widewalls, we have a deep appreciation for the artists who manage to maintain their spotless resumes in the auction world, and whose works are often the subject of debates that concern their aesthetics and message, as well as their high prices. One of those artists is the legendary Lucio Fontana. An Italian sculptor, painter, and theorist who was born in Argentina is best known as the founder of Spatialism and his ties to Arte Povera, a modern art movement introduced in Italy in 1967.
His movement – Spatialism – was launched in 1947, after his return to Italy with the first Manifesto Spaziale. One of the most influential artists of the 20th century has led artists such as Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni to regard him as the father of contemporary art.
From 1949, Lucio Fontana started his Spatial Concept or slash series, a collection of works comprised of holes and slashes on the surface of monochrome paintings. He titled these works Concetto spaziale and he used this name for almost all of his later works. These paintings can be split into categories such as the Buchi or holes, beginning in 1949, and the Tagli, or slashes, beginning 1950.
Lucio Fontana often lined the back of his canvases with black gauze in order to make the darkness shimmer behind the cuts in his works and thus create the illusion of depth. Fontana’s works have been exhibited numerous times internationally, and his first solo exhibition was at Galleria del Milione in Milan, back in 1931. His works have inspired and influenced a great number of artists around the world, so in honor of this great artist, let’s see 10 of his most expensive pieces sold at auctions!
Editor’s Tip: Paul Schimmel – Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962
Since Lucio Fontana is famous for the “destruction” of his paintings, you may be interested in finding out more about this creative practice. This is the first book to provide the transnational view of ruination in the world of abstract painting of the post-war period. This book focuses on the literal physical attack on the picture surface. Affected by the social and political turmoil of the post-war period, especially by the aftermath of the atomic bomb, the artists slashed, punched, and burned their artworks to transcend the boundaries of the two dimensional notions of canvas. Among other artists featured in this book is our Lucio Fontana and his masterpieces, which you will be able to see by scrolling through our list.
Sleek blackness, the void, the Moon, the silver orb, the slashed celestial body. This painting executed in 1961 by Lucio Fontana, marks the pioneering practice essentially driven by the innovative conquests of the technological evolution of mankind. Expanding the objectives of Futurism, Fontana launched artistic creation into the dimension of space/time to signal the end of an old pictorial practice. This painting is a harbinger of humankind’s courageous leap into the unknown and the symbol of the race to the Moon.
This oil on canvas has been exhibited in Buenos Aires and Turin, and was sold at Sotheby’s London in November of 2015 for the amazing $8,986,000. See the whole painting and more information on the “cheapest” most expensive Fontana’s artwork here.
This painting is the prime example of Fontana’s Spatialist aesthetics. As one of the largest artworks are done in pure white, Concetto Spaziale, Attese is the only Fontana’s work comprised of ten cuts on canvas. Each lash depicts the rhythm and graceful impetus of his hand as it nicked the pristine surface. Resembling the scribbles of an unknown language, these almost calligraphic lacerations evoke the feeling of a ballet-like performance of Lucio Fontana’s process.
This waterpaint on canvas and lacquered wood frame was signed, titled, and inscribed “l. Fontana ‘Concetto Spaziale’ ATTESE Il mese de Febbraio inauguro una mostra a Parigi”. It was sold at Christie’s London in 2014 for $9,038,100. See more information here.
This is another work in the Concetto spaziale, Attese series, where the artist sought to create an infinite dimension by piercing the canvas.
The discovery of the Cosmos is that of a new dimension, it is the Infinite: thus I pierce the canvas, which is the basis of all arts and I have created an infinite dimension
Created at the apex of the space age in spiritual union with the bold achievements of the astronauts, this work features twenty-four of his iconic cuts - the greatest number that he would ever commit to one canvas. Enshrouding the work in a black lacquer frame which reflects the world around it, the artist added a further dimension to the work. The cuts create a musical harmony with their elegance, with the plat of shadows imbuing the work with sheer beauty and dynamism.
The work was sold at Christie's London during their Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on June 3rd, 2018 for $10,479,308. See more details about the work here.
The process of creating one of the most extraordinary works of Lucio Fontana was photographed by Harry Shunk in 1965, and these photographs stand as a monument of Fontana’s imaginative and vivacious creative process. Concetto Spaziale, attese presents the new dimension of painting invented and practiced by Fontana, in which the past and the present, space and time, the future and the now collapse together to comprise the amazing work of art that leaves no one indifferent. Consisting of a bravura ballet of twenty-three surgically precise lashes cut into a pure surface, Concetto Spaziale, attese presents the rarely seen arrangement of lacerations in two rows. This disposition evokes the jaw-like depiction of teeth biting into a band of pristine white in the middle.
The waterpaint on canvas was sold at Sotheby’s London in February of 2015 for $11,199,900. See more details here.
Part of much-celebrated cycle of paintings the Venezie, a sequence of twenty-two large-scale Baroque inspired oil paintings, the work Concetto spaziale, In piazza San Marco di notte con Teresita showcases a unique pictorial concept on a dark, flat, thickly-painted square surface. Today, the works from the series are regarded as the painterly culmination of Fontana's Spatialist research.
Alluding to the forms and rhythms of the empty spaces of the colonnades of the Piazza San Marco immersed in a black light, the work is shimmering, dark, and also illusive in its play of light, shadow and fluid surface. Using abstract and conceptual language of his art, the artist composed an image in the viewer’s mind that evokes the sensation of the Piazza San Marco by night, as if seen from a multitude of viewpoints.
The work was sold at Christie's London during their event Thinking Italian on June 10th, 2017 for $11,816,549. See more details about the work here.
This waterpaint on canvas and lacquered wood is one of the biggest of all of Fontana’s Tagli. The painting is dedicated to his wife, Teresita, and has often been known as Teresita throughout the years. The grand scale and simplicity of the painting do not provide the viewer with any distractions. The slash which is over one meter long evokes the sense of a void, omnipresent in Fontana’s works. The surgical precision that marks his practice creates the almost scientifically sterile environment, and, at the same time, the rift in space/time continuum through which the viewers can observe the masterful creations of the universe.
This piece was sold at Christie’s London in February of 2008 for $13,297,500. See more details on the piece and the auctions here.
Concetto Spaziale, La fine di Dio is an oil and glitter on canvas piece executed in 1964, and exhibited worldwide, in Paris, London and New York. La fine di Dio reminds of a vast, dark universe with millions of shining stars that seem to be materializing and dispersing at the same time within the oval outline. It transcends the boundaries of art forms as it is neither a two-dimensional painting nor a three-dimensional sculpture. It is a true “spatial concept”, investigating the notions of the cosmos and mankind’s perpetual aspirations of conquering this final frontier.
The piece was sold at Christie’s London in October 2008 for $15,626,166. Find out more here.
Signed, titled, and inscribed "Sono tornato ieri da Venezia, ho visto il film di Antonioni!!!", Concetto Spaziale, Attese was executed in 1965 and exhibited worldwide, in Milan, Venice, Rome, and New York in a famous Gagosian Gallery. This amazing lacerated piece with 24 slashes may remind one of the curtain lowered at the end of the show. Perhaps this interpretation is not completely off since many of Fontana’s works deal with the idea of something that ends, but at the same time still exists in a limbo of a realm that humans cannot fathom completely. Nevertheless, this piece contains the largest number of cuts that Fontana has incised in any of his works, which makes it fascinating and interesting to the public.
This waterpaint on canvas was sold at Sotheby’s New York for $16,154,000 in November 2015. Find out more about the piece and the auction here.
Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio is an oil on canvas executed in 1963 and exhibited in Paris, Brussels, and Milan. This piece was inspired by the seminal moment in the history – Yuri Gagarin’s travel to space. After this, Fontana has stated that this was the end of art as we knew it. The series La Fine di Dio is comprised of thirty-eight ovoid canvases. This particular one is a multi-dimensional artwork that transcends the boundaries of the canvas. Violently stabbed, punched, and hollowed out canvas was drenched with black oil. The surface reminds of the Moon which exists in the universe basking in its organic beauty, unconscious of time. This galactic work is the one of only two created in slick black paint.
This amazing piece was sold for $24,676,668 at Sotheby’s London in February 2008. Find out more about the auction here.
Oil and glitter on canvas executed in 1963 and exhibited in Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, is another piece from Fontana’s La Fine di Dio series. These complex and mystifying egg-shaped canvases mark the zenith of Fontana’s Concetti spaziali and remind one of the vast mystery of the cosmos. With its egg shape, the painting suggests the birth and the death of all existence. Coated in pink fleshy oil paint and covered with a layer of copper lustrini, the painting materializes and disperses simultaneously, and symbolizes Fontana’s odyssey the goal of which is to liberate the spirit from earthbound matter. The fleshy magma from which the most antediluvian origins of life seem to begin is the main focus of this painting. With its abstract portrayal of galaxies and constellations, this amazing artwork invites the viewer to investigate the contrast between the thick, oily surface and the glittery details against the dark, impenetrable holes of space within.
This painting was sold at Christie’s New York for the astounding $18,818,757 in November 2013, thus making it to the top three of our list. See more details here.
Guys, the runner-up of our most expensive Lucio Fontana’s works goes to Concetto Spaziale, La fine di Dio, oil on canvas executed in 1963. This piece was exhibited at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris, Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and Palazzo Reale in Milan. Regarded as one of the most important works of post-war Italian art, this La Fine di Dio is the crown jewel of Fontana’s greatest series. Out of sight for decades and influenced by the dawn of the space travel age, La Fine di Dio possesses an almost lunar surface, thanks to the violent stabs, slashes, and gouges in a large-scale black ovoid canvas. This amazing piece symbolizes Fontana’s astounding oeuvre and his fascination with the galaxies, thus making it one of his greatest works.
La Fine di Dio was sold for $24,783,950 at Sotheby’s London in October of 2015. Find out more about the piece and the auction here.
Here it is, the number one, second to none, the ultimate victor! Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio, or, translated into English, Spatial Concepts, The End of God was painted in 1964, in the aftermath of "il miracolo economico" in the 1950s – Italy’s financial and cultural bloom. The artwork is a blend of avant-garde and ultra-baroque aesthetics, viscerally punctured and poked. The human-sized canvas, slightly taller than Fontana himself, was gouged and clawed while the paint was still wet. This amazing piece, sometimes punctured even with the artist’s whole hand, is the absolute winner of the "which is the most expensive Fontana’s artwork" game, as it was exhibited numerous times worldwide, in Zurich, Bologna, Amsterdam, Paris, and London, among others.
This oil on shaped canvas was sold at Christie’s New York in November of 2015 for the astounding $29,173,000. You will find more information on the piece and the auction details here.
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