Christie’s is including a late cast of Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, a work prominently featured at New York’s Museum of Modern Art for many years as a pivotal work in the story of Modernism. That bronze was cast in 1931. Later casts were made in 1949, 51, 63 and 72. Christie’ will offer an example of the 1972 cast—a cast from another edition made that year is in the Tate museum in London—this November with a $3.8m low estimate.
Here is Christie’s press release:
On November 11, Christie’s will offer Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, conceived in 1913 and cast in 1972 ($3,800,000-4,500,000) marking the first time in nearly 50 years that one of the artist’s revolutionary sculptures has been offered at auction, since Christie’s sold another cast from the edition in 1975. That example now resides in the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Max Carter, International Director, Head of Department, Impressionist and Modern Art, remarked: “In his brief life, Boccioni reimagined time, space and movement in three dimensions. Where other works of art are rooted in the past, Unique Forms of Continuity of Space—Boccioni’s greatest achievement and one of the most important sculptures of the 20th century—was, is and will always be the future.”
An icon of Modernism, Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space stands not only as the culmination of the artist’s pioneering form of Futurist sculpture, but also serves as a powerful visual embodiment of the Futurists’ iconoclastic and revolutionary artistic aims. Conceived in plaster in 1913, in this, the artist’s largest surviving sculpture, Boccioni has taken one of the most revered subjects in the Western tradition of art—the human figure—and split it apart before reconstructing it in a complex, abstract structure of dynamic, interlocking facets and graceful planes that penetrate and activate the space surrounding it. Striding boldly forward in a pose of powerful and continuous motion, this seemingly indomitable figure presents a new conception of man, as well as sculpture, in the 20th-century: mechanical, forward moving and entirely modern.
The original plaster of the present sculpture is located at the Museo d’arte moderna, São Paolo. All of the bronze examples are posthumous. The two 1931 casts are at the Museo del Novecento, Milan and Museum of Modern Art, New York. The 1949 cast is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The 1951 cast was in the collection of Count Paolo Marinotti. The 1963 cast resides at Museo d’arte moderna, São Paolo. A single 1972 cast is located at The Tate Gallery, London. The present sculpture is from an edition of ten numbered bronzes, cast in 1972 from the 1951 Marinotti example, six of which are in public institutions, including The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; New Orleans Museum of Art; Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim; Kröller-Muller Museum, Otterlo; Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art; and Hakone Open-Air Museum, Ninotaira.
Boccioni’s aim in these works was not simply to depict or transcribe the image of a figure in motion, but to convey the sensation of this movement, “the throbbing of its soul” (J. Golding, Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Newcastle, 1972, p. 8), capturing in visual form the range of simultaneous forces exerting themselves upon a body at the same time. As he wrote in the introduction to his first sculpture exhibition held at the Galerie La Boëtie in Paris in June-July 1913—where Unique Forms was shown for the first time—he was seeking to depict, “not pure form, but pure plastic rhythm; not the construction of bodies, but the construction of the action of bodies.”
It was with the fourth and final of this group of striding figures, the present Unique Forms, that Boccioni successfully achieved this aim, creating a work that embodied the concept of “continuity in space”. The figure is so fluid, elegant and motion-filled it almost appears as if it could be leaping of the earth to become airborne.