Untitled

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Magic Object, 27 February - 15 May 2016

  • Catalogue Essay

    Takashi Murakami’s spectacular painting, Untitled, bridges traditional Japanese-style nihon-ga painting and the worlds of contemporary art, animation, and popular culture. Murakami is one of the most thought-provoking Japanese artists of the 1990s who is described as ‘the king of the colourful psychedelic style he has coined ‘Superflat’.” (Tina Xu, "Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics Museum of Fine Arts," Modern Painters 29, no. 12, December 2017, p. 156-157.) From exalted rituals to youthful pastimes such as anime and manga, traditional nihon-ga painting to the work of Abstract Expressionist hero Jackson Pollock and Pop genius Andy Warhol, Murakami’s diverse sources of inspiration give way to hybridised forms that speak as much to Japanese artistic traditions as to American styles and movements. Mixing playful vibrant characters resembling cartoons, with darker, more menacing subtexts, Untitled offers a coveted and painstakingly detailed painting exemplary of the multifaceted work that has earned Murakami the revered status of Contemporary pop art icon.

    Murakami’s “Superflat” theory integrates past traditions with present-day concerns. Untitled references rinpa, a style that appealed to imperial patrons and was a key part of revival in the Edo period of yamato-e, indigenous Japanese artistic interests. Similar to the highly decorative, patterned, and rhythmic aesthetic of rinpa, “superflat” describes the two-dimensional graphic style created by overlaying multiple transparencies and applying paint in a non-hierarchical fashion to every detail to build a cohesive work that is flattened into one image. Murakami’s interest in flatness extends beyond mere formal concerns. As Tetsuo Shimizu explains, “superflatness refers to the flatness of a mirror that reflects our other self, our alter ego, suffocating from internal contradictions.” (Tetsuo Shimizu quoted by Amada Cruz, “DOB in the Land of Otaku,” Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, New York, 1999, p. 19.) Historian Takashi Fujitani posits that in contemporary Japan, the “flattening out of culture—the collapse of history, meaning, and eternal truths—may, in fact, be stimulating a new search for authenticity.” (Takashi Fujitani quoted by Dana Friis-Hansen, “The Meaning of Murakami’s Nonsense: About ‘Japan’ Itself,” Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, New York, 1999.) Murakami’s flatness also points to the flattening of high and low culture. He clarifies, “Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended… In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that’s okay—I’m ready with my hard hat.”(Takashi Murakami, Massimilliano Gioni, Qatar Museums Authority, and Al Riwaq (Doha, Qatar), Murakami: Ego, New York, 2012, p. 228.)

    Untitled blurs the boundaries between so-called high and low art. Jean Baudrillard writes that one solution for artists in the face of commercialisation was for art to “become more mercantile than merchandise itself.” (Jean Baudrillard quoted by Amada Cruz, “DOB in the Land of Otaku,” Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, New York, 1999, p. 17.) For Baudrillard, Warhol was the artist who was most successful in this pursuit. In comparison to Warhol’s Skull, Untitled also uses printmaking techniques and the help of many assistants to achieve a seamless appearance reminiscent of machine-produced commercial goods, yet the present lot takes the process a step further with its exquisite craftsmanship. Months of printing silk screens (as many as one thousand different screens for a single work) and painstakingly detailed and precise painting executed by multiple tiers of assistants go into the making of one Murakami painting. Murakami says the buzz of activity in his studio is “more similar to what you might have found at Ruben’s workshop long ago.” (Takashi Murakami, Massimilliano Gioni, Qatar Museums Authority, and Al Riwaq (Doha, Qatar), Murakami: Ego, New York, 2012, p. 59.) The sense of motion and character in Murakami’s paintings are furthermore rooted in conventions of animation in contrast to the stillness of Warhol’s works which are derived from photographs. (Amada Cruz, “DOB in the Land of Otaku,” Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, New York, 1999, p. 18.) Murakami’s long-term fascination with anime stems less from its high-tech illusionism and more from the old-fashioned sense it provides of watching drawings in motion. “To see drawings move is a totally different experience than looking at computer graphics,” says Murakami, a belief that underlines the artist’s unwavering dedication to the handmade. (Takashi Murakami quoted by Amada Cruz, “DOB in the Land of Otaku,” Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, New York, 1999, p. 16.)

    Bubbling with bright red skulls and dotted with whimsical embellishments of blue, yellow, and pink details, the present lot dances between luxurious eye candy and a permeating sense of looming anxiety or impending doom. “An artist is a necromancer,” Murakami cryptically states. (Murakami quoted by Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World, London, 2009.) “An artist is someone who understands the border between this world and that one… or someone who makes an effort to know it.” What might appear as a collection of cartoon skulls rendered in a decorative style, becomes on closer examination a madly detailed meditation on Murakami’s grappling with his mortality. His incredibly arduous approach and perfectionist mentality is more akin to the work of Yayoi Kusama. A comparison of Untitled and Kusama’s Infinity Nets OPRT reveals a shared tendency towards self-obliteration through infinite repetition. Kusama painted dots and rings loop infinitely through space as Murakami’s colourful skulls seems to expand endlessly beyond the bounds of the canvas.

    Boldly challenging institutionally defined “contemporary art” with audacious bubbly works rooted in the visual language of contemporary Japanese popular culture, Murakami represents both the materialism and cultural status of the generation in which he grew up in. Murakami considers his work to be a mirror of the current Japanese reality in all its complexity. His influence on Japanese art, the international art world, and even the globalisation of Japan’s kawaii culture, is undeniably palpable and cannot truly be measured.

  • Catalogue Essay

    村上隆之畫作《無題》引人注目,結合傳統日本畫、當代藝術、動畫和流行文化於一體。村上隆是日本1990年代最發人深省的藝術家之一,「他創造了『超扁平』藝術風格,村上為此中王者,特點為色彩斑斕、迷幻迥異。」(Tina Xu,〈村上隆: 怪人系譜,波士頓美術館〉,《現代藝術家29》,第12期,2017年12月,156-157頁)村上隆的靈感來源可謂廣泛多元,既包括盛大莊嚴的主題,亦有青少年消遣的動漫,既有傳統日本藝術,有的可溯及抽象表現主義巨匠傑克森· 波洛克和普普藝術精神代表安迪·沃荷的理念,這讓他的創作混合各種元素,可見日本藝術之淵源傳統,亦不乏來自美國的藝術風格和各種藝術運動之影響。以充滿趣味和鮮明特色的卡通造型,表現更深層陰暗的底蘊。《無題》之細節精細,令人心神嚮往,展現村上隆多方面之才華,突顯其當代普普藝術指標之地位。

    村上隆的「超扁平」理論結合過去之傳統和時下之關注點。《無題》參考日本琳派美學,此為日本皇室所喜,並是江戶時期大和繪復興之重要元素。「超扁平」與琳派美學的高度裝飾性、圖案性、規律性美學很相似,以重疊各種半透明圖案並且在塗色時不分先後遠近深淺,形成統一平坦的一幅圖像,描繪出二維平面風格。村上隆對平面的興趣不僅限於造形,如 Tetuo Shimizu 所說,「超扁平指的是像鏡子般的扁平,映照出我們另一個自己,那個在內心掙扎中受壓制的第二個自己。」(Tetsuo Shimizu,錄於 Amada Cruz,〈DOB 在御宅族的園地〉,《村上隆: 無意義的意義》,紐約,1999年,19頁)史學家 Takashi Fujitani 認為在現今的日本,「文化的扁平——歷史、意義和永恆真理都在瓦解,繼而引發了對確實性的訴求。」(Takashi Fujitani,錄於 Dana Friis-Hansen,〈村上隆的謬論: 關於’日本’自身〉,《村上隆: 無意義的意義》,紐約,1999年)村上隆的「扁平」也指向所謂高級藝術和庸俗藝術之靠攏,他解釋道:「日本人是接受藝術與商業結合在一起的… 但在西方把二者混為一談是很冒險的,會遭到各種抨擊,不過沒問題,我已經做好準備了。」(村上隆,Massimilliano Gioni,卡塔爾博物館管理局,Al Riwaq(卡塔爾,多哈),《村上隆:自我》,紐約,2012年,228頁)

    《無題》淡化了所謂高級藝術和庸俗藝術的界限。Jean Baudrillard 曾寫道,藝術家面對商業化的其中一個辦法便是讓藝術「變得比商品更加商業化。」(Jean Baudrillard,錄於 Amada Cruz,〈DOB 在御宅族的園地〉,《村上隆: 無意義的意義》,紐約,1999年,17頁),對 Baudrillard而言,沃荷便是這方面最成功的藝術家,與沃荷的作品《骷髏》相比較,《無題》也運用了印刷技法,並由許多助手一同參與,完成如同機器生產的商品一般之無暇外觀。然而,此次作品又因其精緻的做工而更進一步。數月的絲網印刷(一幅作品重複印疊多達上千張版),加上層層助手對精確細節的勾勒,才能完成一幅如《無題》的畫作。村上隆曾說他工作室的忙碌場景「與數百年前魯本斯的畫室情景其實很相似。」(村上隆,Massimilliano Gioni,卡塔爾博物館管理局,Al Riwaq(卡塔爾,多哈),《村上隆:自我》,紐約,2012年,59頁)村上隆畫作中的動態和人物特征都來自於動畫的形制,而非像沃荷的作品般來自照片。(Amada Cruz,〈DOB御宅族的園地〉,《村上隆: 無意義的意義》,紐約,1999年,18頁)村上隆對動畫的愛好並非現今以高科技數位製作的,他鐘情的是傳統的手繪動畫。「看著圖畫動跟看著電腦圖像動是很不一樣的體驗。」他曾說道,這奠定了藝術家對手工製作的堅定立場。(村上隆,錄於 Amada Cruz,〈DOB御宅族的園地〉,《村上隆: 無意義的意義》,紐約,1999年,16頁)

    畫面滿是艷麗的紅色骷髏,還有異想天開的藍色、黃色、粉色裝飾點綴,此作既華麗亮眼,亦瀰漫著隱約的焦慮和即將面臨的審判。「藝術家就是一位巫師,」村上隆隱秘地提到。(村上隆,錄於 Sarah Thornton,《藝術市場七日遊》,倫敦,2009年)「藝術家是理解這個世界與另一個世界的界限的… 或者是在盡力去理解的。」看似是一幅裝飾性質的卡通骷髏圖案,仔細觀察之下卻是村上隆與自己道德觀相抗爭的冥想,細緻到近乎癲狂。他的這種極為費力的手法以及完美主義思想與草間彌生的作品十分類似。將《無題》與草間彌生的作品《無限網 OPRT》相比較,可見兩位藝術家都透過無限的重複性來自我忘懷一些事物。草間彌生筆下的圓點和圈圈在有限的空間無限放射,村上隆的繽紛骷髏也似乎在畫布的界限外無限擴張。

    村上隆的鮮活作品紮根於當代日本流行文化的視覺語言,大膽挑戰所謂對「當代藝術」之定義,代表了這個年代的物質主義和文化地位。村上隆視其作品為現今日本社會複雜性的一面鏡子,觀其對日本藝術和國際藝術圈的影響,甚至日本的「萌」文化遍及全球,村上隆在藝壇舉足輕重的地位不容忽視。

  • Artist Bio

    Takashi Murakami

    Japanese • 1962

    Takashi Murakami is best known for his contemporary combination of fine art and pop culture. He uses recognizable iconography like Mickey Mouse and cartoonish flowers and infuses it with Japanese culture. The result is a boldly colorful body of work that takes the shape of paintings, sculptures and animations.

    In the 1990s, Murakami founded the Superflat movement in an attempt to expose the "shallow emptiness of Japanese consumer culture." The artist plays on the familiar aesthetic of mangas, Japanese-language comics, to render works that appear democratic and accessible, all the while denouncing the universality and unspecificity of consumer goods. True to form, Murakami has done collaborations with numerous brands and celebrities including Kanye West, Louis Vuitton, Pharrell Williams and Google.

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Property from a Private Collector

Untitled

2015
signed and dated 'Takashi 2015' on the overlap
acrylic on canvas mounted on aluminium frame
141.4 x 120.2 cm. (55 5/8 x 47 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Estimate
HK$4,500,000 - 8,500,000 
€505,000-954,000
$577,000-1,090,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018