MADSAKI - New Now & Design Hong Kong Sunday, November 26, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “[Spray-paint] has a flavor of street art, but it’s just because of the spray can that people associate with it. That’s why I try to use the can as if I’m using a brush. It’s similar to my feelings of not belonging culturally; I don’t belong in the street art section, and I don’t belong in the Master’s section. I don’t belong anywhere, and I like it that way.”


    The work Untitled (He-Man and Battle Cat) is a representation of the classic characters from the ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’ franchise, notably He-Man himself and his trusted companion, Battle Cat. He-Man is depicted sitting astride Battle Cat, who appears fierce with his open mouth displaying prominent fangs, and his fur has a fiery red hue which stands out against the rocky landscape behind. In the background, we see what seems to be a mystical landscape, possibly alluding to the fantastical setting of Eternia where He-Man's stories take place. The strokes and splatters of spray paint create a sense of motion and rawness, encapsulating the power and wildness of the characters. The use of vibrant colours and a somewhat exaggerated, cartoon-like rendering is consistent with MADSAKI's style, which often involves a bright and punchy colour palette. 


    Detail of the present lot


    In line with MADSAKI's artistic journey, the piece appears to combine his experiences across cultures, as well as his penchant for revisiting and reinterpreting pop culture icons. The use of spray paint links back to the street art influences from his childhood in New Jersey, a nod to his formative years and the urban backdrop that contributed to his artistic language.


    “The smiley faces and dripping eyes came from laziness. I was painting the Mona Lisa, which was my first Wannabie, and at a certain point I thought, fuck it, and painted the smiley face on it. But when you put these faces on these figures, it could be anybody. It’s up to the viewer to put their own image onto that face.”


    By choosing to depict a subject from mass media and childhood nostalgia, MADSAKI bridges the gap between commercial imagery and high art, infusing the piece with a playful yet critical look at consumerism and the commodification of popular symbols. It is a celebration of the characters' enduring legacy and the artist’s personal connection to the story, all while showcasing his unique style that mixes bold colours, street art sensibilities, and a hint of irreverence.

    MADSAKI, born in Osaka, Japan, in 1974, moved to the United States with his family at a young age and was raised in New Jersey. He graduated from the Parsons School of Design in New York City in 1996. One notable period in MADSAKI's career was the development of his 'Wannabie’ series, which comprises spray-painted replicas of classical and modern masterpieces adorned with smiley faces. He had a solo exhibition Wannabie’s in 2015 at CLEAR GALLERY, Tokyo which included his reinterpretations of renowned works like Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Henri Matisse's Dance, and Pablo Picasso's Guernica. Some of MADSAKI’s other solo exhibitions include Island Love at Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, in 2022, Hello Darkness, My Old Friend (I’ve come to talk with you again), at Perrotin, New York, in 2021, and 1984 at Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, in 2020.


    • Provenance

      Kaikai Kiki, Tokyo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Untitled (He-Man and Battle Cat)

signed and dated 'madsaki 2019' on the reverse
acrylic paint aerosol on canvas
142 x 200.1 cm. (55 7/8 x 78 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

HK$500,000 - 700,000 

Contact Specialist

Angela Tian
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now & Design Sale
20th Century & Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
+852 2318 2058

New Now & Design

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2023