MADSAKI - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, July 8, 2020 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
    Pablo Picasso

    MADSAKI in his studio working on the current work
    Taking Picasso’s words quite literally, in the present lot the rising Japan-born visual artist MADSAKI repurposes the modernist’s famed 1907 painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and drags it into the 21st Century with his trademark combination of spray paint as a fine art medium, and tongue in cheek interpretation of art history itself. Graduating from New York’s esteemed Parsons School of Design in 1996, his raw and unapologetic style of expression has seen him recognised by art world superstars like Takashi Murakami – who heralded his “bottomless talent”, and renowned galleries such as Galerie Perrotin and Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Tokyo, of which MADSAKI has held solo exhibitions at.

    Andy Warhol
    The Last Warhol, 1986
    Collection of Museum of Modern Art, New York
    A child of 1980s New York, one doesn’t have to study his work for long to see the influences of two of the epoch’s luminaries – Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. With the former, MADSAKI shares in his critique of the commercialisation of art, his insecurities as a first generation émigré to the city, and a championing of spray paint as an artistic medium. MADSAKI’s own journey to becoming an artist is also fascinating in itself enough. After graduating from college he became a bike messenger in order to “get away from art”, a fortunately short-lived career as his bicycle was crushed in an accident, causing him to miss his shift at the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11. Soon after he was invited to collaborate with The Barnstormers, a collective of experimental artists who introduced him to alternative mediums – significantly, spray paint.

    Pablo Picasso
    Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907
    Collection of Museum of Modern Art, New York
    In Les Demoiselles d'Avignon II, the artist retains the same angular, proto-cubist nude women and the patchwork of contrasting colors utilised by Picasso in his original composition, but replaces their African masks with spray painted smiley faces, intentionally over-saturated as to let the paint drip down the as to stamp his own creative style on the masterpieces, almost as an anarchist signature. Gone is the sinister sexuality that is present throughout the original, stemming from Picasso’s paranoia of venereal disease, and in its place is a playful yet nostalgic atmosphere, one that seeks to amuse rather than forewarn while also presenting a classic painting within a contemporary street aesthetic. Like MADSAKI, Warhol also reinterpreted classical paintings, specifically Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, in a similar exploration of the sanctity of tradition and heritage – though in his case it was religion rather than perceived artistic worth that was challenged. However MADSAKI is in fact more meticulous than his predecessor, recreating his paintings to their originals’ exact sizes and compositions.

    Yet perhaps what bonds the two artists together is their shared eschewing of Western artistic elitism, and their support for the democratisation of art – a notion supported by another fellow New Yorker, Keith Haring, who famously said: “If commercialisation is putting my art on a shirt so that a kid who can't afford a $30,000 painting can buy one, then I'm all for it”. Through his humorous remodeling some of the world’s most celebrated artists, MADSAKI breathes new life into these famous artworks while also confronting their implacability within the canon of art history, all the while suggesting that we take a step back and question the inherited wisdom of how art itself is defined, and valued.

Property from a Private Collection


Les Demoiselles d'Avignon II

signed and dated 'Madsaki 2016' on the reverse
acrylic and aerosol on canvas
243.5 x 233.5 cm. (95 7/8 x 91 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2016.

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$2,125,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 8 July 2020