Javier Calleja - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • Imbued with tenderness and childhood naïveté, the wide-eyed protagonist of In This World encapsulates viewers in a world respite from the hectic flurry of everyday life. Eyes, in Calleja’s world, evoke the bittersweet transitory moments between sadness and relief, a result of his experiments in 2016 with beads of water. In the present lot, a pair of gradient emerald green eyes glimmer with awe, almost protruding from the otherwise flat pictorial composition. 


    Viñetas de Rompetechos (2003) by Francisco Ibáñez Talavera


    The shape of the eyes harkens back to Calleja's fascination with the character Rompetechos, created by cartoonist Francisco Ibáñez exclusively using circular shapes. Another motif key to the work is the little bumblebee interacting with the protagonist. Used ubiquitously in children’s media for its clumsy, animated flight, fuzzy fur and vivid stripes, the bumble bee heightens the overall charm of the work. The present lot prefigures the bees’ reappearance in Calleja's most recent solo show, Still on Time. Oblivious to the potential harm of the bee, the boy gestures openly out to the insect with potential to sting, reverting us back to a time of innocence, yet to be burdened with anxieties of the real world. 


    Another signature of Calleja’s, a simple slogan, adorns the boy’s baby blue t-shirt. Perhaps as a playful reference to the lyrics of the top chart song As It Was by Harry Styles (2022), 'In this world, its just us. You know it's not the same as it was.', or simply an extension of the boy’s imagination, 'In this world' blurs the elusive boundaries between reality and fantasy. The half-formed thought reads like fractured, hazy recollections of childhood, amalgamating childish speech with psychoanalytic frameworks of the subconscious.


    Directly contrasting the work’s unabashedly simplistic style, In this world is situated within a baroque-style custom wooden frame, its thickness an extension of Calleja’s continual experiments with proportion. Art critic Sasa Bogojev found that 'these abnormally large frames provide a deceptive sense of Lilliputian experience'.i 


    Installation view of Clouds Through the Window, 25 May – 21 July 2019, Galerie Zink, Waldkirchen. Courtesy artist Instagram @javicalleja.


    As exemplified in his 2019 solo show at Galerie Zink, the frames enable a salon-like presentation, hailing his works a similar status and timelessness as classical portraits. The grandeur frame paired with the kawaii subject matter poses a challenge to classical notions surrounding visibility and power. 


    Collectors Digest


    Phillips Hong Kong hold the artist’s top record at auction, which was set late 2021 with a multi-part installation, achieving an impressive HKD 12,108,000. 


    Javier Calleja, 30 Works: Untitled, 2017. Artwork: © Javier Calleja
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong, 30 November 2021, for HK$12,108,000 (Premium)


    Calleja’s top 20 auction prices were set in the past 3 years, with the current second-highest result set in Hong Kong, May 2023.
    One of the most prominent artists working today, Calleja’s works have been exhibited at prestigious galleries worldwide, including his pivotal debut solo show in Asia, Hi at Aishon Nanzuka in Hong Kong (2017). His most recent solo show, Javier Calleja: Still on time (1 June-29 July 2023), took place at Almine Rech (currently representing Calleja). 
    Since 2022, Calleja has expanded to partnerships with Rolls-Royce, Disney, Vans and more to release collectables, marking a slower output and surged demand for works on canvas, such as the present lot.  


    Lisa Boudet in conversation with Javier Calleja, 13 March 2023


    i. Sasa Bogojev, Artdaily.com, June 8 2022, online.

    • Provenance

      Almine Rech, Brussels
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Javier Calleja

      Javier Calleja (b. 1971) is a contemporary Spanish artist living and working in
      Malaga, Spain. Calleja is most known for his figurative style of cartoonish, doe-eyed
      characters with exaggerated features. His style is influenced by the toys and comics
      from his 70s and 80s upbringing. Calleja’s characters are often accompanied by text
      that contrasts the innocent and adolescent looking facial expressions of the
      characters represented in the compositions. Calleja works in painting, sculpture,
      and works on paper.

      Calleja holds a BFA from Granada University in Spain. His works have been exhibited worldwide and he is currently represented by Almine Rech.

      View More Works


In This World

titled '"IN THIS WORLD"' on the overlap
acrylic on canvas, in artist’s frame
work 100 x 80 cm. (39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in.)
frame 152 x 132 cm. (59 7/8 x 51 7/8 in.)

Painted in 2022.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,200,000 - 3,200,000 

Sold for HK$2,286,000

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Day Sale, Associate Specialist
+852 2318 2014

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 7 October 2023