Posts Tagged ‘Auction’

Show & Auction | Lucio Fontana, The Last Futurist

Friday, November 18th, 2011


Modern & Contemporary Art and Identita’ Italiana

Sotheby’s Milan, Exhibition until 22nd November, 2011
Auction 22nd & 23rd November, 2011

‘And what is there to see in an old picture except the laborious contortions of an artist throwing himself against the barriers that thwart his desire to express his dream completely?’ – Extract from The Futurist Manifesto, first published in France’s Le Figaro in 1909.

Much as the Italian Futurists, whom he would have been aware of in this youth, Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) was perhaps seen as getting rather carried away by his own enthusiasm when in the 1950s he declared: ‘I make holes; infinity passes through them; light passes through them, there is no need to paint.’

This is the man who slashed his own canvases and slit open his sculptures. I’d like to use the occasion of this Sotheby’s auction in Milan, in which six of his works go under the hammer, alongside paintings and sculpture from many of Italy’s most revered 20th century artists, among them: Giacomo Balla, Arturo Martini,Giorgio de Chirico, Massimo Campigli, Mario Sironi, Alberto Savinio, Renato Birolli, Luigi Ontani, Gastone Novelli and Domenico Gnoli, to extrapolate a theory I have developed concerning Lucio Fontana.

Fontana, was born in Argentina of Italian immigrant parents, his father being a sculptor. He was in Italy studying engineering when WWI broke out and fought in it. Afterwards he studied sculpture in Milan but soon returned to Argentina before settling once more in Italy. Despite having, with some Italian artist friends, gone to Paris – like de Chirico had, more than a decade before – to join one of the many factions of modern artists there – the Abstraction-Création group – contradictorily, his first one-man abstract art show having happened the year before, Fontana’s sensitive, equine, figurative bronze Bozzetto per i ‘Cavalli che seguono la Vittoria’, 1936, (above middle, and included in the sale) dates from this period. It’s interesting to note, though, that these horses are moving, not static, and the younger one is a little ahead of its parent. 1939 finds Fontana back in Argentina where he founds a private academy and with some of his students writes the Manifesto Blanco, demanding the synthesis of artistic genres and the renunciation of traditional art materials. It recognised that: ’We live in the mechanical age. Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist.’ In their place, his idea was to merge technology and art to create something entirely new and more suited to the time. Back in Milan in 1947 he wrote another manifesto: Primo Manifesto dello Spezialismo, demanding a new form of space-oriented art. At the time his concept would have seemed improbable and grandiose: to synthesize space, sound, colour, movement and time into a new kind of art.

In 1949, his fiftieth year, Fontana punched holes through painted canvases and created his first spatial environment: an experiment with shapeless objects painted in fluorescent colours illuminated by ultra-violet light to be viewed in a darkened room. Seemingly manifesto-mad, in the 1950s he wrote another three of them and continued to conduct further experiments, slashing and perforating his paintings and sculptures, and even including neon lights, memorably at the 1966 Venice Biennale where he installed an ultra-violet light-room and a violet neon-room. His uncompromising Concetto spaziale, Attesa,1964 (above top, and in the sale), is perhaps the most bald and direct of his attempts to shock the viewer into the realisation that he is not looking at a flat plane. In slashing the canvas he attempts to bring the background – the wall behind – into the painting, giving it another dimension, making the painting into an object or sculpture. Earlier in the century, the Cubists had of course already experimented with this idea but Fontana wanted to push it further. Around about this time, many of his pieces were named Concetto Spaziele, the pierced sculptural form (above bottom, and in the sale) is one of them; here his object is to blur the difference between a solid, rounded, bean-shaped object and a hollow one, thus allowing the inside as well as the outside surface to have a presence.

Looking beyond the limits of the picture, exploring space and science fiction to connect the new art to the dramatic technological and social changes taking place in the middle of the 20th Century, Fontana’s outlook was enormously influential. Ahead of his time, with so many vague and unformed but interesting ideas, it is fair to say that his spatial concept foreshadowed installation and environmental art and his promotion of gesture as art prompted performance as art. A long list of artists emerging in the 1960s and later all owe him a great debt, among them: Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Jenny Holzer, James Turrell, Laurie Anderson, Bill Viola, Christo, Fiona BannerMartin Creed

We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicoloured, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd. Extract from The Futurist Manifesto, 1909.

Lucio Fontana may well have been the last Futurist.

Works from top
Concetto spaziale, Attesa, 1964
Bozzetto per i ‘Cavalli che seguono la Vittoria’, 1936
Concetto Spaziale, Undated


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Look out for The Blog’s posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you

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Photography | Camera Works

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Photographs
Sotheby’s New York, USA. Sale October 5th, 2011
Exhibition opens 30th September

Maybe you can’t afford to buy but if you are interested in 19th, 20th and 21st century collectable photography, many of the biggest names are here and Sotheby’s exhibitions are open to the public. Let’s start with fashion – Avedon, Horst, Penn. Peter Beard is also represented by his enormous and beautiful illustrated work: Maureen Gallagher and Late-Night Feeder (see below). A rare print of Diane Arbus’s disturbing portrait Viva is going under the hammer. Ansel Adams prints for sale include, among others: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, and a mural of Leaves, Mt. Rainier National Park. There are works by Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Edward Outerbridge and Imogen Cunningham. Prints of two well-known images – Spectacles and The First Round (see above) – by French modernist Pierre Dubreuil are also in the auction. From earlier times there’s a massive print of Alexander Gardner’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln. In addition to the prints, a complete collection of Alfred Stieglitz’s famed quarterly, Camera Work, is up for sale.

Top. Lot 110 Estimate $150/250,000
Pierre Dubreuil The First Round. Circa 1932

Above. Lot 170 Estimate $120/180,000
Peter Beard Maureen Gallagher and Late-Night Feeder, 2:00am. 1987

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Look out for The Blog’s posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design
and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you

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Photography | Big Nudes

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Le Imaginaire du Nu
Hotel Drouot, Paris. Exhibition 27th & 28th June 2011. Sale 28th June

Nudes, especially as a subject for books, exhibitions and auctions, are big right now, especially in France. Not that the nudes themselves are huge in proportions, you understand, with the possible exception of the amazons in high stilettos in Helmut Newton’s classic, Big Nudes (1990) that is among a list of 10 books on this particular génre of photography selected for La Lettre de la Photographie by photographer and collector, Bruno Mouron, prompted, almost certainly, by the huge up coming auction and exhibition L’imaginaire du Nu at Hôtel Drouot in Paris.

Early daguerreotypes and prints will be sold back to back with photographs from the beginning and middle of the 20th century: Bill Brandt, Robert Doisneau, Horst, Krull, Man Ray, Willy Ronis and contemporary works by, among others, Araki, Bourdin, Ralph Gibson, David Hamilton, Sam Haskins, Horvat, Lindbergh, George Platt-Lynes, Jeanloup Sieff, Bert Stern and Joel Peter Witkin. The majority, as might be expected, are images of women but male nudity is also represented in pictures by, for example, Bruce of Los Angeles and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Interesting to note, though, that despite the current vogue, we’re already halfway through the year and Mapplethorpe’s Nudes 2011 calender, which includes graphic black and white images of both males and females of our species is still available from Te Neues.

Pamela Hanson, Carla Bruni, Vogue Hommes, 1994, top
Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, 1935, below


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Auction | Less Artless

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

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Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Sotheby’s, London. Exhibition 25-29th June. Sale 22th June 2011

It would seem that almost overnight – I wrote and posted my previous blog, below, only last Friday, so I can’t claim that my criticisms had any bearing on the rehash –  Sotheby’s have changed their style of video presentation. This one begins with an animated discussion between two of the company’s contemporary art specialists – one male, reasonably well-dressed, and one female, wearing an interesting top, in a gallery situation. There’s lots of hand movement: lots of changes of camera angle, from an obviously hand-held camera, zooms and wide shots. A third expert arrives and joins in with the discussion. A little later it reverts back to the more static presentation, however the first, lively couple make another appearance, which makes for a happy end. It’s really a big improvement.

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Very Important Private View

Friday, January 14th, 2011


VIP Art Fair

January 22nd – 30th

Being on Sotheby’s mailing list is useful. I often pop into the auction house just for the chance of seeing something amazing that after its brief public appearance will promptly disappear, once more, into the private collection of whichever buyer – often anonymous – makes the final bid.

I’m on the mailing list of a couple of other galleries too. The other day, one of these, Timothy Taylor Gallery, emailed me a complimentary pass – with the same sort of proportions and curved corners as those of a credit card – to something called the VIP Art Fair, which lasts for a week and is exclusively online. I’m keeping an open mind but for me, it’s important to experience a piece of art in the flesh to be able to tell whether it moves me, or not – for similar reasons, I’ve never bought anything on ebay. Even with something like a flat colour screen print, it’s the effect of it at actual size that gives it allure. I suppose video art may be an exception but even then I like to view it within a gallery context. Online art, though, by definition is produced specifically to be viewed online and not to exist in any other format, so that might work.

My pass has a rather sombre black background. I can’t help wondering whether richer invitees, according to their degree of status, have been sent gold or even platinum versions.

It would interesting to hear what you think. Please leave a comment

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