The Economist does a detailed anatomy of the Lucio Fontana Venice painting that goes on the block at Sotheby’s on Thursday:
Along with the “Fine di Dio” series on which he worked at the same time, Fontana’s “Venezia” paintings are his most important works.
Of the 22 paintings, seven are in public collections, including the Ludwig Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and the Lucio Fontana Foundation. The remainder are divided mostly between private European and American collectors. In the past 20 years only five have come up for auction.
Thus the rediscovery of one of the works, bought directly from the artist in 1961 and not seen in public since it was shown in a small exhibition in Germany nearly 50 years ago, is cause for some excitement. [ . . . ]
Known only by the same black-and-white photograph reprinted in all three editions of Enrico Crispolti’s catalogue raisonné of Fontana’s work, the painting is impressive when seen in person. Nevertheless, selling it well will be a challenge. Two “Venezia” works that have come up for auction in the past decade have sold above the top estimate: in 2000 “At Dawn Venice was all Silver” sold at Christie’s in London for £620,000 ($882,300) against a high estimate of £400,000, and two years later “The Sky in Venice” sold at Sotheby’s in London for £1.25m against a top estimate of £800,000.
But when “Festival on the Grand Canal” was presented at Christie’s in New York last November, with an estimate “on request” (said to be $12m-15m), collectors balked. The market was nervous; the painting was regarded as being too heavy, too red, and not in the best condition. The bidding stopped at $7m.
This one is estimated at between £5 and £7 million, right where the November bidder stopped. But now is not November and the art world waits to see where the work will wind up.
Venetian Interlude (Economist.com)