Art Market Italy: Marcello Fantoni’s ceramics

Le ceramiche di Marcello Fantoni, courtesy Piasa Paris

Le ceramiche di Marcello Fantoni, courtesy Piasa Paris

PARIS –Among the masters of Italian ceramics an important name is that of Marcello Fantoni, born in Florence in 1915 and died in 2011.

His career began early. Just 12 years old, Fantoni began attending classes taught by ceramist Carlo Guerrini at the Art Institute of Porta Romana in Florence. Fantoni also took sculpture lessons from Libero Andreotti and Bruno Innocenti and drawing lessons from Gianni Vagnetti. This multidisciplinary training is reflected by his production: Fantoni, in fact, succeeded in combining the simplicity of Italian traditional ceramic with the trends of the international contemporary art research, and in giving to everyday objects the expressiveness of sculpture. Influenced by Primitivism as well as by Modern Art and Cubism, Fantoni was able to combine the plasticity of sculpture and the chromatism of painting. He focused his attention both on the lines and on the volumes. From a technical point of view, Fantoni used an archaic material like clay in the belief that it provided an untapped expressive potential. He painted all objects by hand, making them unique.

The singularity of the objects made these works immediately successful among collectors. In 1936 Fantoni opened his studio called Ceramiche Fantoni after a period spent as the artistic director of a factory in Perugia. Already on the occasion of the Florence Arts & Crafts exhibition, in 1937, his production established itself as one of the latest trends and brought him huge commercial success. Later on, in 1970, Fantoni founded in his studio in Florence a school, the International School of Ceramic Art, through which he spread his teachings and influence.

Today Fantoni’s pieces are sold at auction for prices from €500 to €15,000, but they have been scarce on the market and there is a high demand for the most important pieces. They appear on the U.S. market a little more often now. Many of his objects are kept in private collections and museums including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the museums of modern art in Tokyo and Kyoto. In Italy, his work can be seen at the Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, at the Bargello Museum and at the Prints and Drawings Cabinet of the Uffizi in Florence.

French auction house Piasa is devoting to Fantoni a monographic auction, which is taking place in Paris on April 15. “This is the first time that an important esemble of Fantoni’s works is shown in Paris,” Piasa design specialist Frédéric Chambre said. “Despite his presence in numerous museums and collections, Fantoni did not take advantage of an important retrospective in one of these institution. His market is still very elitist and there are not so many pieces available on the market. We do hope to shed a new light and give more visibility to this important creator and that this monographic auction gives Fantoni the place he deserves.”

The sale will include about 100 objects like vases, lamps, tables and sculptures with estimates ranging from €800 to €12,000. Among the most important lots there are two sculptures in glazed ceramic, estimated between €4,000 and €6,000 (lots 7 and 36) and a table from 1970 estimated at €8,000-12,000 (lot 38). But there will also be lots at affordable prices like, for example, three small vessels from the 1960s in a romantic milky white color estimated at €800-1,200 (lot 3), and two large white vases with color drips estimated at €600-900 each (Lot 24 and 25).