Matthew Wong - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "I’ll often have quick flashes of imagery appear in and out of my thoughts, they could be shaped or triggered by something I saw or heard out in the world, an artwork I have seen...Going by intuition and my emotions I will then head to the studio and set out to elaborate in paint these vague glimpses I get."
    —Matthew Wong

    Painted in 2018, Day 1 is a striking example of Matthew Wong’s highly coveted landscapes rendered in monumental scale. Indeed, the present work bears resemblance to the artist’s current world record, River at Dusk, also from 2018, both in grandeur and also with its unique perspective, high horizon line and rich amber palette. In the present work, long grasses guide the viewer into an expansive, jewel-like field that gives way to a grove along a riverbank, all set below a mystic daytime sky. Encapsulating the “mental database of art I have seen or impressions from day to day life,” in Wong’s words, Day 1 evokes a fusion of the artist’s influences and lived environments—namely Edmonton, Alberta, where he spent the last three years of his all-too-brief career.i  Marking the first of eight paintings from his Day By Night series, the present work featured at Massimo De Carlo, Hong Kong in 2019, the artist’s first solo exhibition in China.


    Matthew Wong, River at Dusk, 2018. Sold Phillips, Hong Kong, December 2020 for $4,871,441. Artwork: © 2022 Matthew Wong Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    "Living a fairly reclusive life and finding the most stimulation and enjoyment from matters of the’s inevitable that the solitary nature of this pattern seeps into and informs my work."
    —Matthew Wong

    After living in the United States and Hong Kong between 2007 and 2016, the Toronto-born artist returned to Canada and settled in Edmonton, where he worked in solitude and prolifically painted the works for which he is now celebrated. It was “a city where he knew no one...For those three years, periods of intense productivity in Edmonton were reclusive lulls in his frenetic and supercharged march through the art world,” Winnie Wong observed.ii Between 2017 and 2019, the artist presented glimpses of Edmonton in his paintings, including Day 1. In this case, the foregrounded field recalls the grasslands of the Canadian Prairies, whilst the upper half of the composition conjures Edmonton’s tree-lined river valley, which “Wong would have gone up and down, crossing the North Saskatchewan River, every early morning on his way to his studio.”iii Here the artist’s elicitations of the natural world around him echo the Canadian landscapes of Group of Seven painters as Emily Carr, as well as the work of his cited influence Marsden Hartley, who similarly found painterly subjects in his home region of Maine when he returned there late in life. 


    Marsden Hartley, Mount Katahdin, Autumn, No. 1, 1939-1940. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, New York

    "I’d like to think of my art practice as an open-ended dialogue between myself and other painters, both living and dead."
    —Matthew Wong

    Transforming Edmonton’s landscape into a vista of his mind, the present work showcases Wong’s abounding painterly imagination as he uses the exterior world to explore the subconscious—a hallmark of the artist’s practice. As Lauren DiGiulio observed, “Wong worked at the intersection of inner psychology and exterior expression, troubling any simple explanations for the tension between them. He constructed paradoxical spaces that, rendered in landscapes and domestic scenes, go deep into the psyche while looking outward to the fields of Western and [Eastern] painting.”iv Channeling his great influences from both canons, the richly speckled field in Day 1 evokes the Pointillism of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac as well as the hallucinatory nets of Yayoi Kusama, while the foregrounded grasses recall the calligraphic strokes of traditional Chinese landscape painting. By intuitively painting the dots over the dominating plant forms in certain areas, Wong flattens the compositional perspective as if to collapse space into the singular plane of the mind, ultimately materializing his “existential meditation on the act of painting.”v  


    [left] Georges Seurat, La Luzerne, Saint-Denis, 1884-1885. National Galleries Scotland, Edinburgh. Image: © National Galleries of Scotland, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY [right] Vincent van Gogh, Olive Trees, 1889. Minneapolis Institute of Art. Image: Minneapolis Insitute of Art, The William Hood Dunwoody Fund

    "Wong can be considered a kind of nouveau Nabi…Like his forebears, he synthesizes stylized representations, bright colors, and mystical themes to create rich, evocative scenes. His works, despite their ebullient palette, are frequently tinged with a melancholic yearning."
    —Eric Sutphin

    For the series comprising the present work, Wong painted four pairs of day and night scenes, starting with the former and recalibrating his palette for the latter. By exploring the changing effects of light through color between Day 1 and its counterpart Night 1, the artist evokes the Poplars of Claude Monet and the olive groves of Vincent van Gogh, his most cited influence. Refracting throughout the composition, the colors of Wong’s daytime light conjure the evocative hues of Symbolism, whilst the blue seeping in at left reflects the melancholic sensibility that culminated in his series of Blue paintings from 2017 to 2019. As he expressed in the year of the work’s creation, “I do believe that there is inherent loneliness or melancholy to much of contemporary life, and on a broader level I feel my work speaks to this quality in addition to being a reflection of my thoughts, fascinations, and impulses.”vi


    The present work and Night 1 installed at Day By Night, Massimo De Carlo, Hong Kong, January 10 – March 16, 2019. Image: Winnie Yeung, Courtesy Massimo de Carlo, Artwork: © 2022 Matthew Wong Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 


    Collector’s Digest


    Upcoming Institutional Show


    Dallas Museum of Art, Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances, October 16, 2022 – February 5, 2023


    • Wong’s works reside in notable public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Dallas Museum of Art, Estée Lauder Collection, New York, and the Aïshti Foundation, Beirut.


    • Continuing the momentum around the artist’s acclaim, the Dallas Museum of Art will host Wong’s first museum retrospective in the United States on the heels of the painter’s institutional debut, Matthew Wong: Blue View, which took place at the Art Gallery of Ontario from August 2021 to April 2022.


    i Matthew Wong, quoted in Maria Vogel, “Matthew Wong Reflects on the Melancholy of Life,” Art of Choice, November 15, 2018, online.
    ii Winnie Wong, “Genius from Nowhere: Postcards from Matthew Wong,” in Postcards, exh. cat., Karma, New York, 2020, p. 7.
    iii Ibid.
    iv Lauren DiGiulio, “See You on the Other Side: Matthew Wong’s Vistas of the Mind,” Momus, April 1, 2021, online.
    v Matthew Wong, quoted in Elaine Wong, “They Are Artists: Matthew Wong,” Altermodernists, October 29, 2014, online.
    vi Matthew Wong, quoted in Maria Vogel, “Matthew Wong Reflects on the Melancholy of Life,” Art of Choice, November 15, 2018, online.

    • Provenance

      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Hong Kong, MASSIMODECARLO, Day by Night, January 10–March 16, 2019

    • Artist Biography

      Matthew Wong

      Matthew Wong was a Canadian artist who enjoyed growing acclaim for his lush, dreamlike scenes that play on a rich tradition of art historical precedents. His work depicts the vivid but often melancholy terrain between sleep and wakefulness, lonely landscapes and isolated interiors rendered with a carefree hand and an ebullient palette, yet which contain an ineffable sorrow and a palpable but unnamed longing.  

      Wong spent his childhood between cultures: he was born in Toronto, Canada and at age 7 moved with his family to Hong Kong where he lived until he was 15, at which time the family returned to Canada. Wong began to experiment artistically already well into his adulthood, first with photography, which he pursued at the postgraduate level at the City University of Hong Kong, and then with painting. A self-taught painter, Wong developed his aptitude for the medium by immersing himself in online conversations with other artists and dedicated personal study of the history of art. His paintings attracted almost immediate attention, but Wong tragically passed away in 2019 just as his work was beginning to receive widespread critical praise.  

      View More Works


Day 1

signed, titled and dated "DAY 1 王 二O一八" on the reverse
oil on canvas
70 x 60 in. (177.8 x 152.4 cm)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $3,176,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Global Managing Director and Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Associate Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 18 May 2022