Highlights from Phillips in Association with Poly Auction 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Hong Kong Fall Sales
Taking place on 3-4 December, Phillips in association with Poly Auction 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Hong Kong Fall Salesbring together a rich diversity of Western and Asian artists including highly sought-after names such as Yoshitomo Nara, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gerhard Richter, Chu Teh-Chun, Zao Wou-Ki, Yayoi Kusama, Christine Ay Tjoe, and Matthew Wong, as well as auction debuts in Asia for works by younger stars including Lucas Arruda, Emily Mae Smith, Salman Toor, Titus Kaphar and Derek Fordjour. The live auctions will be streamed to bidders worldwide on ArtPro app, Phillips.com and the Phillips app, as well as the Poly Auction app and WeChat Mini Program.
Jonathan Crockett, Chairman, Asia, Phillips, said: “This historic partnership with Poly Auction marks the latest initiative in Phillips’ commitment to a continued long-term growth story in Asia. We are delighted to announce a distinguished line-up of exceptional works by some of the most sought after Western and Asian artists – from Gerhard Richter and Jean-Michel Basquiat to Yoshitomo Nara and Chu Teh-Chun. We continue to celebrate and showcase artists of the moment, and are excited to mark the auction debut in Asia for emerging names such as Emily Mae Smith, Titus Kaphar and Salman Toor. These auctions mark a notable stage in our trajectory of growth and underscores Phillips’ intentions to expand our presence further in the important Asia market. We look forward to welcoming the international collecting community to these landmark auctions this December.”
Alex Chang, Managing Director of Poly Auction (Hong Kong), says: “Poly Auction is a leading auction house in China, and Phillips is an auction house with a history of more than 220 years, and has rich experience in the field of Western art. Through the past 9 years, Poly Hong Kong has been pursuing diverse auction categories and innovative themes and had set new records every year, with a grand total of nearly HKD 1.7 billion achieved in 2019. The Modern and Contemporary Art department has made outstanding achievements as well, and currently holds world auction records for Zao Wou-Ki's "Oracle" period, Wu Guanzhong's oil paintings and Yoshitomo Nara’s installation works. This joint Fall Sales will combine our strengths and resources to offer collectors something new and meet the demands of an evolving art market. An array of modern and contemporary masterpieces from across the world will gather in Hong Kong this coming December, and we look forward to bringing new vitality into the market.”
Featured on the Cover of Yoshitomo Nara’s Catalogue Raisonné
Expected to Achieve One of the Highest Ever Prices for a Work by the Artist at Auction
The historically important Hothouse Doll was exhibited in numerous institutional exhibitions and appeared as the cover of the artist’s catalogue raisonné, Yoshitomo Nara Complete Works 1984–2010, published in 2011. In particular, it was featured in the ‘Major Works’ section of this publication, considered the most extensive literature and survey of Nara’s work ever published to date. Its highlight as the front cover of this monumental publication as well as having been handpicked by the artist to be included in a curated section highlight its eminence in the artist’s oeuvre.
Isaure de Viel Castel, Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Phillips Hong Kong, said, “Hothouse Doll is one of the finest examples of Yoshitomo Nara’s distinctive and touching portrayal of childhood, drawing from memories forged during those crucial years in Germany. The painting features a full body portrait of a little girl with a broody, mischievous sulk, along with the artist’s signature wide-open almond-shaped eyes, highlighting Nara’s fixation with the darker side of childhood innocence. The blue baby doll dress depicted in the present work is rare in the artist’s oeuvre, a motif that is only scattered sporadically throughout the 1990s. We are honoured to be entrusted with the sale of this painting, which reappears at auction for the first time after 12 years having remained in a private collection.”
Hothouse Doll was executed in 1995 – a particularly momentous year for Yoshitomo Nara, marked especially by the publication of his first ever book of paintings. In 1995, he also had his first show with Blum & Poe Gallery, which started representing him internationally in the same year, as well as a breakthrough solo exhibition, In the Deepest Puddle, at SCAI the Bathhouse in Tokyo. Since then, Nara’s position as one of the most acclaimed living Japanese artists has steadily solidified. The layered background in the present work showcases the artist’s unique way of building impasto to create soft and sensual backdrops, exemplifying a painterly technique that he gradually developed and refined in the 1990s. During his residence in Germany in the 1990s, the loneliness of living abroad catapulted Nara back to the days of acute loneliness in his childhood, and his profound sense of alienation manifested itself in his iconic portraits of solitary children, fueling refinement and development of his signature style.
Post-War Abstract Masters
The Evening Sale presents magnificent works by abstract masters, Gerhard Richter, Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-Ki. Originating from the heart of Richter’s inquiry into the transcendence of painterly abstraction, which began in the 1970s, Abstraktes Bild (682-4) from 1988 (illustrated page 1) is a stunning example from the artist’s celebrated series. The same year that the present work was conceived, Richter held seminal shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Tokyo. This is a pristine and condensed version of the artist’s celebrated series, its dramatic trails of explosive red, luminous greens and darker blues and greys create a strikingly textured and iridescent image. Richter uses contrasting colours to build the visual illusion that the bright red belongs to the foreground, while the colder blues and greys dwell in the back.
Painted in 1960, a year which is considered to be the apex of Chu Teh-Chun’s career when he transformed his oeuvre from the representational to the abstract, Composition No.65 (illustrated page 1) is representative of the artist’s early abstraction period. The present work epitomises a vertical format which emphasises the artist’s references to scroll-mounted Chinese classical landscape paintings. With canvas as a basis and oil as his medium, Chu perfectly translates a cornerstone of Chinese tradition using the most Western form of expression, advancing a quest for the renewal of Chinese art that characterises the golden decade of the 1960s.
In the early 1970s, Zao Wou-Ki was advised by his friend to re-explore Chinese ink and paper, and to leave behind his preferred large format canvases with their vast expanses of space that demanded hours in the studio. In part to care for an increasingly bed-bound and ailing May, in part due to the artist’s own inner-turmoil and desperation for a new creative outlet to distract himself, Zao’s return to the Chinese ink brush—a medium in which he was classically trained—would eventually give way to a pivotal shift in his later paintings.
As evidenced in 14.06.73, executed in 1973, the calligraphic methods of feibai (flying white), where an ink-steeped brush is smudged across a silk scroll to denote a sense of flight; and cunfa (‘crack technique’) in the centre of the piece, employed to mimic shadows and textures of nature, speak to Zao’s intimate knowledge of the Chinese calligraphic traditions. In the present work, rich swathes of green tumble into streaks of gold and brown, highlighting Zao’s intimate grasp over the possibilities of the Chinese ink medium, but here recasting and juxtaposing them within the Western medium of oil paint. Observing 14.06.73, one is reminded of a verdant landscape; fractal patterns against a sundrenched sky; lush foliage set against a hot summer’s day.
Born into a highly educated family, Zao Wou-Ki had come under the profound influence of Chinese literati arts of poetry, calligraphy, and painting since his childhood. He was inspired by Paul Klee in the early 1950s as he began exploring Eastern images and lines. He continued his exploration and entered into what scholars have acclaimed as his “Hurricane Period” of complete abstractness in the 1960s. With an infinitely varied palette and immensely unrestrained brushstrokes, Zao integrated the spatial concepts of traditional Chinese aesthetics and the philosophies of Western Abstract Expressionism while blazing a new, unprecedented trail for the development of abstract painting in the 20th Century.
Heavily influenced by the language of Western art, Zao utilised oil paint as his main medium as he developed his artistic style, drawing inspiration from Parisian abstract paintings he encountered after his move to the French capital. However, with the education he received in his formative years laying the foundation of his Eastern aesthetics, the composition of his paintings often recalls the influence of traditional Chinese ink painting. In the painting 12.2.69, Zao organises space in his composition in accordance to the philosophy of traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting. As Zao once stated, 'I admire how Mi Fu arranged space. This differentiates Chinese landscape painting from Western oil painting. In my paintings, a lot of spaces are also left empty. However, as oil paint does not splash as easily as ink, I actually work more meticulously on the empty spaces than the occupied spaces. The ever-flowing, cadenced rhythm resulting from the interaction between the real and the virtual in Chinese paintings has given me significant inspirations'. In the 1960s, Zao broke away from his earlier method of expression - using symbolic representations to display his own traditions. In its stead, he enhanced the rhythm of his paintings with a greater sense of power and speed.
Also highlighting the Evening Sale are works by the late artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Matthew Wong, two of the contemporary art world's fallen stars, both of whom left a legacy of complex and deeply personal artworks. Ancient Scientist was created by Basquiat in 1984, at a time in which the 24-year-old artist had solo museum shows and his art was sought after by collectors and renowned galleries worldwide. The present work draws inspiration from Old Master paintings of famed figures and demonstrates Basquiat’s fascination with Picasso, which is reminiscent of the latter’s famed Masks. Xerox papers at the bottom of the work featuring flowers speaks to the titular scientist and the artist’s interest in the reproduction technique as well as anatomical drawings. It is a powerful testament to the artist’s unique ability to create a body of heavily textured work with layers of meanings.
Matthew Wong’s dreamlike landscapes and still lifes have captivated audiences worldwide. His colourful paintings are prisms of art history - from Chinese literati painting to the expressive brushwork of Vincent van Gogh and Chaim Soutine, the Nabis and Henri Matisse’s fervor for color to the gestural approach of the Abstract Expressionists, numerous influences are palpable in his vibrant vignettes. River at Dusk is an enthralling work depicting a romantic scene of a river at dusk lined with lush foliage bathed in golden light. A large two metre composition executed a year before the artist’s passing, the work offers an immersive experience into the contemplative wonderlands that exist in the artist’s imagination.
Prominent Japanese Contemporary Art
Besides Yoshitomo Nara’s Hothouse Doll, this season’s Evening Sale will feature another important work by the artist. Standing at over three meters tall, Untitled is currently the largest artwork by the artist to appear at auction. This striking work features the artist’s signature motif of the wide-eyed child, captivating the audience with glowing cosmic eyes rising out of a pool of pastel ripples. Untitled is the culmination of years of perfecting the subject of the lone figure, rendered here in exquisite detail through the artist’s manipulation of both colour and medium. While retaining the unique texture and grain of wood boards, Nara creates a graphic effect entirely distinct from other wood board creations in both colour usage and the sense of space produced by lines.
Yayoi Kusama’s lifelong fascination with the natural world began during her childhood when she spent time in the seed-harvesting field of her family’s plant nursery. Fruits [EPSOB], 2011, is a signature still life painting of fruits obsessively filled in with the artist’s most iconic motifs: her infinity net pattern, polka dots and lines.
MADSAKI is perhaps best known for his Wannabe series, in which he reinterprets the Old Masters using his trademark spray paint technique. If one work should represent Matisse, it would be the famous Dance work currently housed in New York’s MoMA. In DANCE 2, MADSAKI pays homage to the French painter in retaining the original composition and movement while preserving his characteristic style.
Chinese Contemporary Art
An array of Chinese Contemporary artworks by the most reputable Chinese artists including Zhang Xiaogang, Liu Ye, Liu Wei, Yue Minjun, Fang Lijun, Zhou Chunya and Huang Yuxing will be offered across the Evening and Day Sales. Led by Zhang Xiaogang’s Fairy Tale, an iconic work among the artist’s early paintings from his Demon period. Even though the tone of the painting is still very much filled with the sense of mystery and foreordination of the Demon series, the dreamy backdrop, large areas of bright colours, and religious attributes exhibited by the figures have shed the sorrow and struggles of the earlier Demon series.
Asian Female Abstract
INFINITY-NETS (QRTWE) is an exceptional example from Yayoi Kusama’s celebrated oeuvre that continues the legacy of her most iconic Infinity Nets series, which the artist has developed and enriched for more than half a century, cementing her place as an iconic figure at the centre of contemporary art. The present work was first unveiled at the artist’s two-part exhibition at Victoria Miro in London in 2007. The work recalls the artist’s earliest white net paintings that were presented at the Brata Gallery in New York and propelled her to artistic stardom.
Executed in 2013, When Black and Red Could Hardly be a Circle showcases Christine Ay Tjoe’s inimitable style, with an innate understanding of the relationship between line, space and colour. 2013 was a seminal year for the artist, when Ay Tjoe’s style evolved definitively from figuration to abstraction. Some of her best works were created that year, including the holder of the artist’s world auction record Small Flies and Other Wings which sold at Phillips in 2017. Whilst When Black and Red Could Hardly be a Circle retains some vestiges of figurative language with the same fly-like creatures that feature in Small Flies and Other Wings, in the present work Ay Tjoe places greater emphasis on expressing pure, brute emotion in the blunt, whirling streaks of colour.
Today's Emerging Talent
Despite being only 37 years old, Lucas Arruda is among Brazil’s globally sought-after fresh generation of artists, proven by the widespread institution and critical recognition for his exquisite landscapes and seascapes. One of the largest sized pieces to appear at auction, Untitled, from the artist’s Deserto-Modelo series, beckons the viewer to come closer, inviting them to peer into the meticulously applied brushstrokes that bring into form a complex rendition of a horizon line at the cusp of dawn or dusk. With fewer than ten Deserto-Modelo paintings offered in the auction market before, Untitled is a superb example from an artist rare at auction.
Coming to auction for the first time in Asia and poised to make a splash in this season's 20th Century & Contemporary Art sales are Salman Toor, Emily Mae Smith and Titus Kaphar. Pakistani-born artist Salman Toor is currently the subject of significant critical and institutional praise – most notably through his first ever solo exhibition which is now taking place at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York. Currently the subject of significant commercial and critical attention, Emily Mae Smith’s surreal 2018 painting Alien Shores recently set a world auction record in Phillips’ October London Evening Sale. Marking her Asia auction debut is Dust, which portrays an anthropomorphic broomstick figure – the artist’s signature avatar.
Highlights from the 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale The Day Sale on 4 December includes a broad spectrum of well-known contemporary artists such as Liu Ye, Genieve Figgis, Matthew Wong and Mr. Leading the Day Sale is Liu Ye’s Untitled (Self-Portrait), executed in 1997 after the artist’s return from Berlin to China, and depicts a chubby toddler with a roundish head rendered in cartoonish style. Another newcomer to come to auction in Asia this season is Derek Fordjour, a Tennessee-born artist of Ghanaian heritage has become well known for his multidisciplinary practice exploring race, violence, displacement and inequality in American society. Also included in the Day Sale this fall is a distinguished selection of Danish, Italian and Japanese Design pieces. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based award-winning designer, brand consultant and artist Alan Chan will be given a dedicated area at the Hong Kong pre-sale exhibition, to curate a selection of design items and art pieces for “Pantone 7603C by Alan Chan”. Besides being selected twice for Shanghai Biennale and Hong Kong Contemporary Art Award respectively, Mr.Chan is also the first Hong Kong designer ever to be invited to hold a solo exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum in 2007 and the prestigious Japanese graphic design gallery – Ginza Graphic Gallery in Tokyo in 2002. His works have been collected by art institutions and private collectors worldwide.