Hiroshi Sugimoto - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “Red to yellow, yellow to green, then green to blue — the projected colors contain an infinity of tones and change every moment. I am engulfed in color. Particularly when the colors fade and fuse into darkness, the gradation seems to melt away into pure mystery.”
    —Hiroshi Sugimoto


    Having studied Sir Isaac Newton's and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s experiments with prisms and light, Hiroshi Sugimoto approached his recent project with a deep curiosity about the material properties of light, and photography’s ability to capture the invisible. In Opticks, named after Newton’s 1704 book, Sugimoto utilized photography’s oldest camera obscura technique by creating a darkened room in his studio with a small opening and a prism placed in front so that light could pass through it. As the sun rose and set outside, pure light, in all its infinite colors, was cast from the prism onto a customized mirror, which allowed Sugimoto to separate the colors, and was subsequently captured by his lens. The resulting photographs are thus images of light, created by light, a stunningly vivid fusing of subject and media.


    Sugimoto debuted Opticks in an exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in 2020. This is the first time the series is appearing at auction.


    • Provenance

      Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, 2020

    • Artist Biography

      Hiroshi Sugimoto

      Japanese • 1948

      Hiroshi Sugimoto's work examines the concepts of time, space and the metaphysics of human existence through breathtakingly perfect images of theaters, mathematical forms, wax figures and seascapes. His 8 x 10 inch, large-format camera and long exposures give an almost eerie serenity to his images, treating the photograph as an ethereal time capsule and challenging its associations of the 'instant.' 

      In his famed Seascapes, Sugimoto sublimely captures the nature of water and air, sharpening and blurring the elements together into a seamless, formless entity.  This reflection of the human condition and its relationship with time follows through his exploration of historical topics and timeless beauty as he uniquely replicates the world around us.

      View More Works


Opticks 161

Chromogenic print, flush-mounted.
46 3/4 x 47 in. (118.7 x 119.4 cm)
Overall 60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm)

Signed in ink, printed title, date, and number 1/1 on an artist's label affixed to the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $241,300

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs


Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 11 October 2023