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Christie's Auction of 'Eyes Wide Open: An Italian Vision' sets a benchmark for Arte Povera and Post-War Italian art
Jussi Pylkkänen, President of Christie’s EMERI, selling the top lot of the sale: Alberto Burri Combustione Plastica. Executed in 1960-1961 it sold for £4,674,500 / $7,666,180. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

LONDON.- On 11 February at Christie’s, the evening auction Eyes Wide Open: An Italian Vision realised a total of £38,427,400/ $63,020,936/ €46,074,453 establishing 13 artist records, and launching an exceptional week of Post-War & Contemporary Art auctions at Christie’s London. The top price of the evening was paid for Alberto Burri’s Combustine Plastica, which sold for £4,674,500 / $7,666,180 / €5,604,726 (estimate: £600,000-800,000), a world record price for the artist at auction.

Francis Outred, International Director and Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe: “This evening’s auction was a benchmark moment for ‘Arte Povera’, a movement which has long held a deep academic and artistic importance and which has welcomed increasing international demand over the last 5 years. The rarest and most important works by both well established and less renowned artists drew fierce international bidding, seeing 8 of the top 10 lots sell in excess their high estimate and establishing record prices for 13 artists, including Burri, Fabro, Kounellis, Merz and Pistoletto. Having presented this collection on a global platform, it is particularly pleasing to see so many artists rise up to their true market potential, especially those whose work is not so regularly seen at international Evening auctions, including Giulio Paolini, Fausto Melotti and Francesco Lo Savio, whose work quadrupled its estimate”.

Mariolina Bassetti, International Director and Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe: “This evening’s auction has highlighted the importance and influence of Arte Povera within the wider context of 20th century art and builds on the success of last October’s record sale of 20th Century Italian Art in London, which also saw an unprecedented level of international bidding. It is a great testimony to the taste and vision of the collectors who assembled this collection that it drew such huge interest leading up to the auction, and that the public exhibition at Christie’s Mayfair, which continues until Friday, has so far welcomed over 1,000 visitors”.


Alberto Burri’s Combustione Plastica (1960-1961) sold for £4,674,500/ $7,666,180/ €5,604,726 (estimate: £1,700,000-2,200,000), setting a record price for the artist at auction. A major influence on Arte Povera, Alberto Burri explored materials and their transformation through processes such as chemical reactions and burning. The artist, who also influenced international artists such as Rauschenberg and Tapies, will be the subject of a major retrospective at the Guggenheim, New York in 2015.


Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Lei e Lui – Maria e Michelangelo sold for £1,986,500/ $3,257,860/ €2,381,814 (estimate: £600,000-800,000) setting a record price for the artist at auction. Executed at the beginning of 1968, this work was a centrepiece of one of Pistoletto’s most famous exhibitions at the Galleria L’Attico, Rome, in 1968. In this life-sized, double-portrait ‘mirror-painting’ depicting the artist and his life-long companion and artistic collaborator Maria Pioppi, the reflections of light and movements triggered by the viewers are key elements of Pistoletto's paintings on mirrors, which remain some of his best-known works and are icons of Arte Povera.

The pair of works by Alighiero Boetti: Addition and Substraction from 1974 both witnessed outstanding results, making four times their pre-sale estimate with Addition fetching £1,706,500 / $2,798,660 / €2,046,094 (estimate: £300,000 - 400,000) and Substraction, realising £1,538,500/ $2,523,140/ €1,844,662. Equally successful was Boetti’s Rosso Gilera 60 1232 – Rosso Guzzi 60 1305, which achieved £1,706,500 / $2,798,660 / €2,046,094 (estimate: £450,000-650,000), as well as his poetic masterpiece I sei sensi (the six senses) (1974-1975) which sold for £1,314,500/ $2,155,780/ €1,576,086 (estimate: £600,000-800,000).

Pino Pascali’s Torso di negra al bagno (1964) sold for £1,538,500/ $2,523,140/ €1,844,662 (estimate on request). A mesmerizing totem of femininity that appears to have erupted from the floor, this black ’Venus’ is a masterpiece of Pascali’s tragically brief career. It is the sole stand-alone sculpture in the series of deliberately artificial hollow canvas ‘feigned-sculptures’ and ‘object-paintings’ that Pascali made for his first solo exhibition at La Galleria Tartaruga in Rome in 1965.

Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Natura sold for £1,258,500 / $2,063,940 / €1,508,942 (estimate: £900,000-1,500,000) setting an auction record for a terracotta concetto spaziale by the artist. Executed in 1959-1960, this terracotta by Fontana is a unique and rare work in the artist’s Natura series of sculptures, which reflect his fascination with the elements. These rock-like forms, appearing at once natural and man-made are regarded as some of the most significant works of the post war era.

Luciano Fabro’s Piede sold for £962,500 / $1,578,500 / €1,154,038 (estimate: £800,000-1,200,000) setting a record price for the artist at auction. This striking sculpture with its startling contrast between a giant, claw-like polished bronze foot and its thin, light, towering column of radiant blue silk reaching to the ceiling, is part of the extraordinary series of Piedi (Feet) made between 1968 -71 that Fabro exhibited at the 1972 Venice Biennale. Fabro has described these works as ‘revelatory’ structures that transform their surroundings into the realm of a fairy tale.

Arte Povera transformed the landscape and language of contemporary art in the late 1960s and 70s and has become one of the most influential art movements of the past half century, exerting a profound impact on art around the world, including conceptual art, minimalism and the YBAs. The present collection, on view at Christie’s Mayfair until Friday 14 February, explores the movement’s roots in the work of Post-War Italian artists Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni and Fausto Melotti and its influence in the works of artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Alighero Boetti, Mario Merz, and Luciano Fabro. Exceptionally, this collection also investigates Arte Povera’s legacy in the work of artists as diverse as Cy Twombly, Olafur Eliasson, Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg, Rosemarie Trockel and Thomas Schütte.

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