Works by Pino Pascali and Lucio Fontana lead Christie's Thinking Italian Art and Design sale

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Works by Pino Pascali and Lucio Fontana lead Christie's Thinking Italian Art and Design sale
Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Forma (1957, estimate: £2,500,000-3,500,000). © Christie's Images Ltd 2020.

LONDON.- Christie’s will present Pino Pascali’s Contraerea (1965, estimate: £2,500,000-3,500,000) and Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Forma (1957, estimate: £2,500,000-3,500,000) as leading highlights of Thinking Italian Art and Design. The auction will take place in London on 22 October as part of the ‘20th Century: Paris to London’ sale series. Standing over a metre in height, Concetto Spaziale, Forma is a rare and elegant masterwork rendered in lustrous gold-painted iron that belongs to a series of eight unique stemmed sculptures. Contraerea is a seminal sculpture from Pino Pascali’s iconic series of Armi (Weapons). The work was debuted in his powerful installation of Armi at Turin’s Galleria Enzo Sperone in 1966, and has been widely exhibited since, including in his major posthumous solo show at Rome’s National Gallery of Modern Art in 1969; in his first large-scale retrospectives outside Italy, at Paris’s Museum of Modern Art and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, in 1991; and at the Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, in 2001. Both works will be on display at Christie’s King Street in an exhibition that will showcase the rich and beautiful dialogues that flourished within 20th century Italian visual culture from 10 to 22 October 2020.

Mariolina Bassetti, Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Continental Europe: “Christie’s is committed to providing an international platform dedicated to showcasing the creative forces that unfolded across Italy throughout the 20th Century. This year, on the occasion of our 20th Italian sale, we are thrilled to extend this to a dialogue that explores the talents that worked in design alongside the artistic movements that developed. Our outstanding results over the last 20 years have demonstrated an appetite for Italian modern masterpieces. We are therefore delighted to present Pino Pascali’s Contraerea and Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Forma as highlights of our new sale concept and look forward to welcoming visitors to our King Street galleries to view the works this October.”

Created between 1957 and 1958, the series that Concetto Spaziale, Forma belongs to represents Lucio Fontana’s first major free-standing Spatialist sculptures: three of the eight are held in institutions – the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, the Silkeborg Kunstmuseum and the Fondazione Lucio Fontana – and a group of them featured in the artist’s solo exhibition at the 1958 Venice Biennale. Fontana had originally trained as a sculptor in the 1920s, before the advent of space travel prompted him to conceive his works as Concetti Spaziali (‘spatial concepts’). Here, the two converge: the sculpture’s head tilts towards the sky, evoking a flower in bloom or a bird in flight. A tail extends either side like a comet, its linear thrust conjuring the iconic slashed canvases – or tagli – that Fontana would begin the following year. Organic and otherworldly, it is a powerful emblem of his belief that art should go beyond the earthly realm, and point us towards the unknown. During the 1930s, Fontana travelled to France, where he became acquainted with Constantin Brâncuşi and Joan Miró. It is perhaps no coincidence that the latter was also a close friend of Alexander Calder, whose own stemmed sculptures – evocative of planets and constellations – would come to chime playfully with Fontana’s aesthetic.

Contraerea (1965), as with other works from the series, sees Pino Pascali use cast off plastic, iron and aluminium parts to create a replica of a military weapon: here, an anti-aircraft gun, painted dark green. The work’s menacing appearance is playfully undercut by its toy-like hopelessness as a firearm. The work brings together strands of childhood memory, a critique of contemporary current affairs and a wry formalist engagement with the art object. When Allied forces landed on the shores of Taranto and Bari in the late summer of 1944, they brought conflict, civil war and ultimately liberation from the forces of fascism with them. They also unwittingly began a process of cultural exchange between Italy and the United States that was to have a lasting influence on Italian art. The Armi series saw Pascali combining his sharp eye for Pop aesthetics with a return to his childhood. An impressionable nine years old when the Allies arrived in his native Bari, he had grown up playing what he later described as games ‘largely based on the war-heroism representation of the grown-ups [because] our fathers were at war’. ‘My toys’, he recalled, ‘were piles of objects found in the house, which represented weapons’.

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