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Lucio Fontana

Lucio Fontana
Lucio Fontana
Born (1899-02-19)19 February 1899
Rosario, province of Santa Fe, Argentina
Died 7 September 1968(1968-09-07) (aged 69)
Varese, Italy
Nationality Argentinian and Italian
Education Brera Academy, Milan
Known for Painting, Sculpture

Lucio Fontana (Italian: ; 19 February 1899 – 7 September 1968) was an Italian painter, sculptor and theorist of Argentine birth.[1] He was mostly known as the founder of Spatialism and his ties to Arte Povera.


  • Early life 1
  • Work 2
  • Exhibitions 3
  • Collections 4
  • Art market 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Born in [4]


In 1927 Fontana returned to Italy and studied under the sculptor [4]

In 1940 he returned to Argentina. In Buenos Aires (1946) he founded the Altamira academy together with some of his students, and made public the White Manifesto, where it is stated that "Matter, colour and sound in motion are the phenomena whose simultaneous development makes up the new art". In the text, which Fontana did not sign but to which he actively contributed, he began to formulate the theories that he was to expand as Spazialismo, or Spatialism, in five manifestos from 1947 to 1952.[6] Upon his return from Argentina in 1947, he supported, along with writers and philosophers, the first manifesto of spatialism (Spazialismo)**. Fontana had found his studio and works completely destroyed in the Allied bombings of Milan,[7] but soon also resumed his ceramics works in Albisola. In Milan, he collaborated with noted Milanese architects to decorate several new buildings that were part of the effort to reconstruct the city after the war.[8]

Following his return to Italy in 1948 Fontana exhibited his first Ambiente spaziale a luce nera (Spatial Environment) (1949) at the Galleria del Naviglio in Milan, a temporary installation consisting of a giant amoeba-like shape suspended in the void in a darkened room and lit by neon light. From 1949 on he started the so-called Spatial Concept or slash series, consisting in holes or slashes on the surface of monochrome paintings, drawing a sign of what he named "an art for the Space Age". He devised the generic title Concetto spaziale (‘spatial concept’) for these works and used it for almost all his later paintings. These can be divided into broad categories: the Buchi (‘holes’), beginning in 1949, and the Tagli (‘slashes’), which he instituted in the mid-1950s.[9]

Fontana often lined the reverse of his canvases with black gauze so that the darkness would shimmer behind the open cuts and create a mysterious sense of illusion and depth.[10] He then created an elaborate neon ceiling called "Luce spaziale" in 1951 for the Triennale in Milan.[11][12] In his important series of Concetto spaziale, La Fine di Dio (1963–64), Fontana uses the egg shape. With his Pietre (stones) series, begun in 1952, Fontana fused the sculptural with painting by encrusting the surfaces of his canvases with heavy impasto and colored glass. In his Buchi (holes) cycle, begun in 1949-50, he punctured the surface of his canvases, breaking the membrane of two-dimensionality in order to highlight the space behind the picture.[13] From 1958 he purified his paintings by creating matte, monochrome surfaces, thus focusing the viewer’s attention on the slices that rend the skin of the canvas.[14] In 1959 Fontana exhibited cut-off paintings with multiple combinable elements (he named the sets quanta), and began Nature, a series of sculptures made by cutting a gash across a sphere of terracotta clay, which he subsequently cast in bronze.[15]

Fontana engaged in many collaborative projects with the most important architects of the day, in particular with Luciano Baldessari, who shared and supported his research for Spatial Light – Structure in Neon (1951) at the 9th Triennale and, among other things, commissioned him to design the ceiling of the cinema in the Sidercomit Pavilion at the 21st Milan Fair in 1953.[16]

Around 1960, Fontana began to reinvent the cuts and punctures that had characterized his highly personal style up to that point, covering canvases with layers of thick oil paint applied by hand and brush and using a scalpel or Stanley knife to create great fissures in their surface. In 1961, following an invitation to participate along with artists [4]

Among Fontana’s last works are a series of Teatrini (‘little theatres’), in which he returned to an essentially flat idiom by using backcloths enclosed within wings resembling a frame; the reference to theatre emphasizes the act of looking, while in the foreground a series of irregular spheres or oscillating, wavy silhouettes creates a lively shadow play.[9] Another work from that time, Trinità (Trinity) (1966), consists of three large white canvases punctuated by lines of holes, embraced in a theatrical setting made from ultramarine plastic sheets vaguely resembling wings.[7]

In the last years of his career, Fontana became increasingly interested in the staging of his work in the many exhibitions that honored him worldwide, as well as in the idea of purity achieved in his last white canvases. These concerns were prominent at the 1966 Venice Biennale, for which he designed the environment for his work.[13] At Documenta IV in Kassel in 1968, he positioned a large, plaster slash as the centre of a totally white labyrinth, including ceiling and floor (Ambiente spaziale bianco).[18][19]

Shortly before his death he was present at the "Destruction Art, Destroy to Create" demonstration at the Finch College Museum of New York. Then he left his home in Milano and went to Comabbio (in the province of Varese, Italy), his family's mother town, where he died in 1968.

Fontana created a prolific amount of graphic work with abstract motifs as well as figures, little-known in the art world, at the same time as he was producing his abstract perforated works.[20] He was also the sculptor of the bust of Ovidio Lagos, founder of the La Capital newspaper, in Carrara marble.


Fontana had his first solo exhibitions at Galleria del Milione, Milan, in 1931.[21] In 1961, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Whitechapel Gallery, London).[7] Since 1930 Fontana's work had been exhibited regularly at the Venice Biennale, and he represented Argentina various times; he was awarded the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale of 1966. In 2014, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris dedicates a retrospective to the artist. Tornabuoni art held a parallel show in its Avenue Matignon Paris gallery space.[23]


Today Fontana's works can be found in the permanent collections of more than one hundred museums around the world. In particular, examples from the Pietre series are housed in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome, and the van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.[24] Fontana's jewelry is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.[25]

Art market

Italian scholar Enrico Crispolti edited a two-volume catalogue raisonné of Fontana’s paintings, sculptures and environments in 2006. In 2013, Luca Massimo Barbero, Nina Ardemagni Laurini and Silvia Ardemagni published a three-volume catalogue raisonné of Fontana's works on paper, including more than 5,500 works in chronological order.[26]

A rare, large crimson work with a single slash, which Fontana dedicated to his wife and which has always been known as the Teresita, fetched £6.7 million ($11.6 million) at Sotheby's London in 2015.[28] Even more popular are Fontana's oval canvases. Sotheby's sold a work titled Concetto spaziale, la fine di dio (1963) for £10.32 million in 2008.[29] Part of Fontana's Venice circle, Festival on the Grand Canal was sold at Christie's in New York for $7 million in 2008.

See also


  1. ^ Chilvers, Ian. The Oxford Dictionary of Art. Oxford University Press, 10/giu/2004. p. 259. Web. 21 Jun. 2012.
  2. ^ Sarah Whitfield, Lucio Fontana, University of California Press, 2000, p68. ISBN 0-520-22622-4
  3. ^ Richard Kostelanetz, H. R. Brittain, A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes, Routledge, 2001, p216. ISBN 0-415-93764-7
  4. ^ a b c d Press Release: LUCIO FONTANA: VENICE/NEW YORK OPENS AT THE GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM Guggenheim Museum, New York.
  5. ^ Whitfield, Sarah (2000). Lucio Fontana. University of California Press. p. 172.  
  6. ^ Lucio Fontana MoMA Collection.
  7. ^ a b c Lucio Fontana: Ambienti Spaziali, May 3 - June 30, 2012 Gagosian Gallery, New York.
  8. ^ Sharon Hecker. “Servant of Two Masters: Lucio Fontana’s 1948 Sculptures in Milan’s Cinema Arlecchino.” Oxford Art Journal 35:3 (December 2012): 337-361.
  9. ^ a b Renato Barilli, Lucio Fontana MoMA Collection, New York.
  10. ^ Lucio Fontana Acquavella Galleries, New York.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Reconstruction :
  13. ^ a b (1959)Concetto spaziale, AtteseLucio Fontana, Guggenheim Collection.
  14. ^ Lucio Fontana Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp.
  15. ^ (1959-60)NaturaLucio Fontana, Tate Collection.
  16. ^ Francesca Pasini on Lucio Fontana TATE ETC., Issue 14, Autumn 2008.
  17. ^ Grace Glueck (October 13, 2006), Honoring Two Cities With Slashes, Piercings and Punctures New York Times.
  18. ^ (1966)Concetto spaziale, AtteseLucio Fontana, Christie's London, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 28 June 2011.
  19. ^ Declaring Space: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, September 30, 2007 - January 6, 2008 Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
  20. ^ lucio fontana, April 8, 2004 - June 27, 2004 Museum Franz Gertsch, Burgdorf.
  21. ^ Lucio Fontana - Gagosian Gallery Gagosian Gallery.
  22. ^ (1964-1965)Concetto Spaziale - Attesa (Spatial Concept - Expectation)Lucio Fontana, Walker Art Center.
  23. ^ Lucio Fontana Found, March 2010 The Art Market Monitor.
  24. ^ (1953)Concetto spazialeLucio Fontana, Christie's London, The Italian Sale, 14 October 2011, London.
  25. ^ (1969)A SILVER AND LACQUER BRACELETLucio Fontana, Christie's Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design, 13 June 2008, New York.
  26. ^ Gareth Harris (November 14, 2013), Catalogue of Lucio Fontana’s drawings in the works The Art Newspaper.
  27. ^ The crimson and the white - Lucio Fontana and the blade that took him to space The Economist, October 18, 2008.
  28. ^ Anny Shaw, (February 12, 2015), London's second week of auctions are strong, but more post-war than contemporary The Art Newspaper.
  29. ^ Guy Dinmore (October 1, 2009), Paris exhibition tests strength of art market Financial Times.


  • This article draws from the corresponding article in the Spanish WorldHeritage.
  • Orford, Emily-Jane Hills. (2008). "The Creative Spirit: Stories of 20th Century Artists". Ottawa: Baico Publishing. ISBN 978-1-897449-18-9.

External links

  • Fondazione Lucio Fontana
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