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Arte Povera masterpiece by Michelangelo Pistoletto leads Christie's Italian Sale
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto Spaziale, Attese, signed, titled and inscribed `l.Fontana, “Concetto Spaziale” ATTESE, oggi vado a pranzo col premio nobel e amico Quasimodo’ (on the reverse). Waterpaint on canvas, 39½ x 31⅞ in. (100.5 x 81cm.). Executed in 1966. Estimate: £2,200,000-2,800,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

LONDON.- On October 11, immediately following the Post-War & Contemporary Art evening auction, Christie’s will present an exceptional edition of their renowned Italian Sale. A masterwork of the Arte Povera movement, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Metrocubo d’Infinito (Cubic Metre of Infinity) (1966) is considered the icon-lot of the sale (estimate: £400,000-600,000). Arguably the most important of a series of pioneering Arte Povera works, Metrocubo d’Infinito is offered from the collection of the late Graziella Buontempo, a 20th century major collector and international ambassador of Italian contemporary art. The most valuable lot of the sale is an outstanding Concetto Spaziale, Attese executed in 1966 by Lucio Fontana and estimated at £2,200,000-2,800,000.

Mariolina Bassetti, Chairman of Christie's Italy, International Director in the Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Department: “On October 11, Christie's Italian Sale will present a rich array of works of art of great importance and quality. We are particularly proud to offer a selection of works from the collection of the late Graziella Buontempo. A 20th century major collector and international ambassador of Italian contemporary art, in 1970 Buontempo founded the Incontri internazionali d’arte, which are now donating their archive to the MAXXI museum in Rome, offering an invaluable source of information to the world’s scholars. The highlight of the Buontempo collection is Michelangelo Pistoletto’s ‘Metrocubo d’Infinito’, a museum-quality masterwork of the Arte Povera movement. The auction’s catalogue also features an extraordinary group of works by Lucio Fontana, which wonderfully represent the variety of the artist’s expressive modalities: from the unique and monumental sculptural ceiling decoration ‘Soffitto: decorazione in gesso dipinto e neon’ to an exquisite 1966 ‘Concetto spaziale. Attese’, which is the top lot of the sale”.

A masterpiece of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s oeuvre, Metrocubo d’Infinito (Cubic Metre of Infinity) (1966) marks a seminal turn in the course of art history (estimate: £400,000-600,000). Privileging humble materials and the conceptual power of the object, Pistoletto’s mirrored cube is arguably the most important of a series of pioneering Arte Povera works, which he created in the 1960s. Assembled from six mirrors, coloured in a vibrant orange on the reverse, Metrocubo d’Infinito constitutes an evacuated, one metre cube of air (47¼ x 47¼ x 47¼in. / 120 x 120 x 120cm.). Within the hidden chamber at the centre of this enigmatic work, we are invited to imagine an infinite series of proliferating, multi-directional reflections. This is invisible art that can be experienced through the intellectual curiosity it ignites. One of five unique and individually coloured variants, the other Metrocubo d’Infinito are currently housed in the Dallas Museum of Art, Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris as well as the artist’s own private collection. This is a unique opportunity as it is the only one available to the current market. The work belongs to the Buontempo collection, the group of major twentieth-century art assembled by the elegant and charismatic force behind the Incontri Internazionali d’Arte, the late Graziella Buontempo. A pioneering collector and international ambassador of Italian contemporary art throughout her lifetime, in 1970 Buontempo founded Incontri Internazionali d’Arte to showcase contemporary art in all its forms. Over time, Incontri Internazionali d’Arte became closely associated with artists Jannis Kounellis, Giulio Paolini, Vincenzo Agnetti, Alighiero Boetti, Mario Merz, Daniel Buren, Sol LeWitt, Gino De Dominicis and Luigi Ontani, as well as art critics and historians Giulio Carlo Argan, Maurizio Calvesi, Filiberto Menna and Germano Celant, amongst others. Also from the collection of Graziella Buontempo Christie's will offer for sale another important work by Pistoletto (Catena; painted tissue paper on stainless steel; executed in 1971; estimate: £300,000-400,000), as well as an installation-piece by Giulio Paolini (Partitura (Orfeo); executed in 1976; estimate: £30,000-40,000).

The top lot of this October Italian Sale, is Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) Concetto spaziale, Attese, an outstanding example of this famous series, created in 1966 (estimate: £2,200,000-2,800,000). Formerly in the collection of Hans and Ursula Hahn, the work was held in this renowned German collection, which had been exhibited in museums since the day it was made, until last year. On the reverse of his pictures, Fontana would often include inscriptions, sometimes featuring nonsensical arithmetic or train-of-thought commentary from his own life. In the case of Concetto spaziale, Attese, he appears to have recorded an appointment about which he was excited: ‘Today I am going to lunch with the Nobel Prize and friend Quasimodo’. This appears to be a reference to the acclaimed Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo, with whom Fontana actually collaborated on a multiple. Quasimodo was a friend of numerous Italian artists and a regular at the legendary Bar Jamaica in Milan, where Fontana was also a regular alongside other luminaries including Manzoni, Enrico Baj and Dario Fo. In 1959, Quasimodo won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Another important work by Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Soffitto: decorazione in gesso dipinto e neon forms part of his celebrated Ambienti spaziali. A vast, rare and revolutionary art-work that borders on the architectural in terms of its scale is estimated at £500,000-700,000. Relatively few of these ‘Spatial Environments’ have survived, as they were often constructed for temporary exhibitions. In them, Fontana brought his Spatialism into the architectural realm that so fascinated him, allowing him to experiment with form and, in the case of Soffitto: decorazione in gesso dipinto e neon, with light: he incorporated electric elements as well as neon at the top, meaning that this hanging baroque form emanates a glow upwards, illuminating the ceiling as its own backdrop. Executed in the early 1950s, the forms in Soffitto: decorazione in gesso dipinto e neon recall Fontana’s early sculptures, even from the pre-War years, which often penetrated space in novel ways, with tendrils of material puncturing and thus defining their surroundings.

Like Lucio Fontana’s Concetti Spaziali and Yves Klein’s monochrome paintings, Piero Manzoni’s Achromes are a seminal and perpetually ongoing series of totem-like works that run like a constant throughout the artist’s career, encapsulating and epitomizing his oeuvre as a whole. With its elegant and repetitive sequence of separate sheets of white canvas pleats laid out in a near grid-like pattern, the kaolin-coated Achrome on offer at Christie's London is one of a comparatively rare group of canvas Achromes that Manzoni (1933-1963) began to make around 1959. Its structure explores and expresses the potentially endless and repetitive nature of his Achrome concept (estimate: £1,800,000-2,500,000). Manzoni’s Achromes are central and defining works in his tragically brief but groundbreaking and highly influential career. Begun in 1957 and continued in a variety of forms and often surprising new media, right up until the artist’s premature death in 1963, they mark a wholly new approach to the making of art. In this Achrome, circa 1959, one of a series of grid or faster ?? structured works that Manzoni began in late 1958, the artist has further developed the sequential rhythm of pleats found in earlier examples and translated it into the more formal, structural and intellectual logic of a grid-like progression.

Following the recent major retrospective, which the London Tate Modern dedicated to Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994), Christie's Italian Sale will feature an important 1984 Mappa (estimate: £600,000-800,000). Encapsulating and criticizing the globalism, Mappa was designed by Boetti and was completed by skilled Afghan workers who were by this time in exile in Pakistan. Thus, both in terms of its contents and its context, Mappa tells a tale of flux which is most eloquently evident in the two white spaces corresponding to the current state of Namibia and Afghanistan. In fact the nation now known as Namibia is shown as a white blank, in recognition of its ambiguous status at that time.

Another white space is far more eloquent: that where the flag of Afghanistan should be. The embroiderers who executed this work, Afghans in exile in Peshawar and Quetta, left a void to represent their homeland. The poetic content and concept of this Mappa is underscored by the inscription which Boetti has included around the edge. As well as the date and the artist’s name, there is a well-known quote from the Roman poet Sandro Penna, who had died in 1977 but whose poetry Boetti often used in his texts: it reads, ‘Io vivere vorrei addormentato entro il dolce rumore della vita’ - ‘I want to live sleeping in the sweet noise of life.’ This is a notion that chimes perfectly with the sense of Ordine e disordine, order and disorder, which so fascinated Boetti. Ordine e disordine are likewise perfectly embodied in this ordered image of the globe, which reveals so little of the sometimes brutal disorder of the human tales that lie underneath.

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