Izumi Kato - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips

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  • In the early 1990s, following the collapse of Japan's economic bubble, many commercial galleries faced unprecedented hardships in their daily operations, with the subsequent lack of funding making it nearly impossible to cultivate young artists. Graduating in 1992 from the Department of Oil Painting at Musashino University in Tokyo, Izumi Kato’s artistic development was altogether delayed by economic circumstances. For several years, Kato worked as a construction worker to make a living, and it was only when he turned 30 years old that he decided to fully identify himself as an artist, concentrating on his love for creation. 



    Izumi Kato, Untitled, 2012
     Christie’s Hong Kong, 24 May 2021, Sold for HK$4,250,000


    Initially, Izumi Kato focused on painting abstract landscapes. However, his attention gradually shifted to various symbolic portraits, featuring creatures of mysterious and grotesque forms. As an art major, he learned about the various influences in art history, such as traditional African art, the Cubist master Pablo Picasso, the Impressionist master Vincent van Gogh, and the figurative master painter Francis Bacon. These artists all had a great impact on Kato’s works, which are readily visible in the subjects and compositions in his paintings. In 2007, Kato was invited for the first time to participate in the 52nd Venice Biennale: the present work was created during the following year. Having had over a decade of experience in the international art community, his painting style became increasingly more mature.


    Untitled started as a triptych painting of a family trio in a very large format - quite rare in the artist’s oeuvre, also making it the largest painting by the artist to ever appear on the market. Each of the figures on the canvas plays a unique role, distinguished by the three primary colours to strengthen the significance of each representation. The “father” is on the green canvas, the “mother” on the red, and the “son” on a blue-coloured canvas of a slightly smaller size, probably to indicate age difference. Just like the spectrum perceived by the human retina, the three primary colours are also superimposed primary colours – when combined, the more layers the brighter, ultimately creating the colour of white. It is the exact opposite of the three subtractive primary colours of art with red, yellow, and blue, turning darker as more colours blend, eventually resulting in black.


    Since the act of painting conforms to the characteristics of mixing colours, artists often apply the three subtractive primary colours metaphorically in their paintings. However, Kato deliberately chose to illustrate this as an optical concept, showing his unique sense of creativity. Given the fact that Untitled was once exhibited at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, the importance of this series for the artist can be felt.


    Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962
    Collection of the Guggenheim Museum, New York


    Growing up, Izumi Kato has always been particularly interested in Japanese folklore and mountain spirits. He always painted with his fingers instead of a paintbrush to stay close to nature, just like the primitive and experimental nature of his subject matters. In his paintings, female figures are usually a hybrid of humans, animals, and plants, creating a unique spiritual being for the artist that is embellished by organic lines or patterns. The dots that create a net on the background are characteristic of his paintings in this period, which sometimes exists on the head of the main figure, or it extends to the void, or add to the thickness of the canvas under the feet of the main figure. Such repetitive patterns were used only for works of this period, similar to Kato’s emphasis on the illustration of the original form of plants. After 2010, such attributes gradually disappeared in the works, replaced by geometric shapes as the foundation of his composition. Plant elements have also been illustrated with more abstract formats. In recent years, geometric patterns have gradually and unconsciously disappeared in his works. During his slow exploration process, the artist has begun to focus on the presentation of high purity colours. Kato has consistently named his works Untitled, perhaps in an attempt to eliminate the perception of external added values. The result is that the meaning of the works can be anything - tolerant of all perspectives, as close to nature as possible and remaining open to the interpretation of all viewers.



    Henri Matisse, Dance, 1909-10
     Collection of The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
    • Provenance

      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Dorodoro, Doron – The Uncanny World in Folk and Contemporary Art in Asia, 14 March - 10 May 2009, pp. 58-60 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Kazuko Aono, ed., Izumi Kato: Paintings and Sculptures, Kyoto, 2011, pp. 88-89 (illustrated)
      Galerie Perrotin, ed., Izumi Kato, Paris, 2020, pp. 82-83 (illustrated)

ULTRA/NEO Property from a Prominent Private Asian Collection



each signed and dated '2008 KATO [in English and Kanji]' on the reverse
oil on canvas, triptych
red 227.3 x 162.1 cm. (89 1/2 x 63 7/8 in.)
blue 194 x 130.3 cm. (76 3/8 x 51 1/4 in.)
green 227.3 x 162.1 cm. (89 1/2 x 63 7/8 in.)

Painted in 2008.

Full Cataloguing

HK$4,500,000 - 7,500,000 

Sold for HK$11,745,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021