press release

Two rare series of works by Lucio Fontana reunited for the first time at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Under the auspices of the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, the exhibits presents Fontana’s series of Venice paintings and of New York metals of the early 1960s, shown together for the first time. The exhibition is conceived and curated by Luca Massimo Barbero.

Over the course of a few months, in 1961, Fontana worked on a group of canvases which constitute an episode of exceptional aesthetic clarity: the Venice series. This series was shown the same year in the exhibition Arte e Contemplazione at Palazzo Grassi, Venice. Each canvas measures 1.5 meters square and is remarkable for its thickly layered paint, often punctured or cut, with glass inserts. Fontana worked the surfaces with swirling gestures that allude to the Baroque whirls of Venetian churches, to the mosaics of San Marco, or in general to the Byzantine splendors of the city. These paintings are a synthesis of the various facets of the city, of Byzantine gold and white Istrian stone, of the transparency of glass or the darkness of night.

In 1961, Michel Tapié organized an exhibition of the Venice series at the Martha Jackson Gallery, New York. It was Fontana’s first solo exhibition in the United States, signaling him at once as a new 'master' of the international avant-garde. Fontana was, in turn, fascinated by New York, which he enthusiastically sketched. In a geographic and aesthetic conceit, these sketches became the basis for unforgettable works in metal he produced upon his return: the New York series. This consisted of large sheets of shiny and scratched copper, pierced and gouged, cut through by dramatic vertical gestures that simulate the force of skyscrapers, their metal and glass constructions.

The exhibition also includes numerous sketches and more 'typical' works by Fontana, such as his ‘oils’, in which thick paint is densely applied all over the canvas allowing for vivid and deep gestural marks, whether sweeping lines or piercings resembling openings. Out of the fifteen works of the Venice series exhibited in 1961 in Venice and New York, most of them now exhibited at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, some were lost from view following the 1961 exhibitions and others, due to the delicacy of the materials, suffered damage. They have never been reunited until now.

Lucio Fontana. Venice/New York is sponsored by Banca Aletti, Private & Investment Bank of the Banco Popolare di Verona e Novara Group. The exhibition is also supported by the Murray & Isabella Rayburn Foundation through the generosity of Maurice Kanbar. Additional support is provided by the Italian Institute of Foreign Trade (ICE), the Regione del Veneto, and Alitalia. The official shipper is Tratto.

The exhibition catalogue by Guggenheim Publications presents essays by leading scholars of Fontana’s oeuvre: Luca Massimo Barbero, curator, Enrico Crispolti and Paolo Campiglio.


only in german

Lucio Fontana. “Le Venezie” / “New York works”
Kurator: Luca Massimo Barbero

03.06.06 - 24.09.06 Peggy Guggenheim Collection - Venedig
13.10.06 - 01.02.07 Guggenheim Museum - New York