Korakrit Arunanondchai - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “This [History Painting] series, which I started in 2012, has really grown with my practice. It began with this denim painter character, which was basically just me. I wanted to make a story or narrative around the word denim.”
    — Korakrit Arunanondchai

    Korakrit Arunanondchai is a Thai artist who was born in Bangkok to a first-generation Thai father of Chinese origins and a Thai mother who grew up in several countries due to her father’s diplomatic career. Interested in art from a young age, Arunanondchai attended the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in the United States to obtain his bachelor’s degree, and later Columbia University for his master’s degree. His work engages a myriad of subjects such as history, authenticity, self-representation, and tourism through the lens of a cultural transplant, seeking to find a common ground in artistic experiences through a pastiche of styles and mediums.


    Arunanondchai’s work is unique for the artist’s interesting use of materiality. He relates the rise of denim culture with the importation and appropriation of western culture which affected everything, from fashion to modern art. With these paintings he seeks to identify himself as the ‘denim painter’. His fascination with denim is decisively expressed in the present work, executed in 2013 and titled Untitled (History Painting). At the centre of the composition, the outline of a yellow painted figure raises his arms to the sky as he is engulfed by vigorous flames. Bloody handprints surround his body, staining the white and blue denim background.


    Untitled (History Painting)  masterfully and originally transmits a sense of impelling danger and anguish, tackling the subjects of death—a theme Arunanondchai explored more deeply following the death of his Grandfather—spirituality, after-death existence whilst also delving into symbols of Thai animistic and ancestral beliefs. During his years at Columbia University, Arunanondchai studied under the Thai artist Rikrit Tiravanija, who encouraged him to explore his cultural heritage when creating art. Arunanondchai has since made his Thai heritage an indiscernible signature element in his work.


    An interesting comparison can be established among Untitled (History Painting) and the different versions of Rosso Plastica by Italian visual artist Alberto Burri. All these artworks are based on the controversial idea of burning materials that symbolise globalisation (denim for Arunanondchai, plastic for Burri) and showing the devastating effect of flames on destructible matter. Through this artistic provocation, the viewer is pushed to question the precarity of earthly existence, the dangerous potency of fire, the fragility of life in times of violence. If Burri shows the posthumous effect of destruction, however, the Thai artist goes further by staging the actual moment in which ferocity is perpetuated.


    “For me, contemporary art has always been this globalising force. As soon as someone painted on a canvas, that’s when they entered the Western canon of painting. Painting with a capital “P”. I felt like I wanted to paint on denim because denim constantly signifies Western globalisation and the soft power of America. Today, one in seven people in the world have denim. It felt like that was the thread or the canvas I wanted to build my practice upon. But now I think the series has gone full circle, it goes back to my grandfather, to the idea of death, to the source of the fire itself.”
    — Korakrit Arunanondchai


    Alberto Burri, Rosso Plastica, 1963


    After completing his studies at Rhode Island School of Design and Columbia University, Arunanondchai has achieved significant global acclaim through various shows and exhibitions worldwide. Between 2011 and 2022 the artist held a solo show at the Migros Museum in Zurich, Switzerland (18 September 2021 – 9 January 2022). Several of his pieces belong in the permanent collections of the Tate Modern, the Foundation Louis Vuitton, the S.M.A.K. Museum of Contemporary Art.

    • Provenance

      CLEARING, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Untitled (History Painting)

signed with the artist's initials and dated 'K.a 2013' on the reverse
acrylic, denim and inkjet print on canvas
218.5 x 162.5 cm. (86 x 63 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

HK$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for HK$441,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2022