The agreement between Lucio Fontana and Ugo Mulas

In his book, “La Fotografia” (published by Einaudi, Turin, 1973), photographer Ugo Mulas (1928-1973) reports that Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) did not want photos taken of him while he cut his canvases.

“If you film me while I make holes,” the painter told the photographer, “after a while I forget you are there and my work can go on in peace. But I could not make these large cuts with someone moving around me. […] I need to focus a lot. I mean, I don’t just walk in, take my jacket off, and trac!, make three or four slashes. No. Sometimes I leave the canvas hanging there for weeks, before I am certain of what I will do; and only when I am sure I begin to work. I rarely ruin a canvas. But I need to feel in good shape to do these things.”

In the end, an agreement was made: Mulas asked Fontana to “pretend to be cutting a canvas: we put a new one on the wall, and Lucio behaved like when he was about to start, holding his Stanley knife against the fabric […], as if his work could begin in that moment. You can see him from the back, and you see a canvas that is still empty: just a canvas and the artist, acting like someone ready to start working on it. It is the moment in which there is still no cut, but the concept has been processed and is completely clear. In other words, it is the moment in which two aspects of his work meet: the forerunning concept, because when Fontana decided to start he already had an idea of his work, and the execution, in which that concept became reality. Perhaps it is due to this focus and conceptual anticipation that Fontana titled his slashed paintings ‘Expectations’”.

Here is the outcome of that agreement among artists.


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