KYNE - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, June 6, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Ever since I was young, Ive always loved drawing.  My mother also studied arts in college so it was a very natural choice for me.  Graffiti was an outcome of my everlasting fascination with tunnels and underpasses from when I was a kid.  Always thought they were the coolest thing. — KYNE

    Phillips is honoured to present the work of the Japanese street artist KYNE at auction for the very first time. A rising star in the contemporary Asian art scene, KYNE’s anonymous monochrome women with their steady, ice-cool gaze are instantly recognisable. Combining contemporary Japanese manga and anime pop culture with the flat, graphic simplicity of traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints (in particular the popular genre of bijin-ga which depicted the famous courtesans and urban females of the day), KYNE’s subjects have a unique ability to provoke feelings of the uncanny and the familiar in the viewer.



    © KYNE  

    Following in his mother’s footsteps and drawn to art-making from a young age, KYNE trained at college in traditional Japanese nihon-ga, painting particularly with mineral pigment on Japanese washi paper. Intrigued by the tunnels and underpasses of Fukuoka, and the work of a certain graffiti artist called ESK, a love of graffiti grew into an exploration of ‘sticker culture’ and a decisive pivot towards a monochromatic two-tone style – a decision that would come to define KYNE’s work.


    © Tetsu Katsuda, Evening, 1934, Adachi Museum of Art

    © Tetsu Katsuda, Evening, 1934, Adachi Museum of Art 


    Sometimes advancements in technology cause a loss of beauty. — KYNE

    With a nod to the pre-digital culture of the 1980s, KYNE’s works embody the craftsmanship and visual beauty of the analogue age, balancing the feel and brushwork of the analogue with the simplicity of his graphics. Derived from the female portraits he used to paint at school, KYNE’s female subjects defy the dominant masculine and male-gaze mode of production in the graffiti world: “I’ve always painted female portraits, even in school.  Yes it is a common motif in art. But in the graffiti world, the norm involves more masculine and erotic motifs.  In a world filled with that, I thought it would be different and new to be able to show cool-gazed ladies.”


    His work draws interesting parallels with the iconic halftone silkscreen portraits of Andy Warhol executed in the 1980s (see for example Blondie, 1981). At first glance these images convey the relentless, machine-like detachment of mechanical reproduction. But upon sustained viewing, they become intimate portraits that convey something indelible about their female sitters, projecting an aura that intrigues and unsettles. Glossy surface and raw humanity collide; these subjects are vulnerable and demure, yet riotous and defiant. Warhol’s women, and KYNE’s women three decades later, re-examine the nature of artistic production, and shed fresh light on pressing contemporary questions of female empowerment and the construction of identity through images throughout the ages.


    Andy Warhol Blondie
    Andy Warhol, Blondie 1981. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Why stay anonymous?  Because it allows more freedom of imagination but then again as a graffiti artist its also to avoid risk. — KYNE


    KYNE’s hybrid emblems unite many dualities: East and West, pre and post-war Japan, high and low art. Forever ageless, they are here to stay in contemporary discourse. KYNE will be the subject of a solo exhibition at Kaikai Kiki Gallery in 2021, and is included in Galerie Perrotin’s Shanghai group show ‘HEALING’ (5 February - 20 March 2021) curated by Japanese Superflat legend Takashi Murakami. KYNE was invited to create a wall mural at the Fukuoka City Museum in 2020.


    Please note that this present lot is unique, with no variations created by the artist.

    KYNE painting at Fukuoka City Museum
    © 2020 LOCUS Inc.  All rights reserved.


    • Provenance

      Gallery Target, Tokyo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and dated 'kyne '18' on the reverse
acrylic on shaped canvas
100 x 62 cm. (39 3/8 x 24 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

HK$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for HK$1,512,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

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

Hong Kong Auction 7 June 2021