Natee Utarit - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Tuesday, June 21, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Drawing attention to a defining moment in Thai history, when a military coup d’état took place on 19 September 2006 that sent the country into several years of social and political turmoil, the present lot Dead Soldier depicts a standing green toy sniper aiming at a target on its back, knocked over, or as the title suggests, dead. Inherently invested in the social concerns of the society he lives in, Thai artist Natee Utarit draws inspiration from the political affairs of Thailand.


    Natee Utarit is internationally acclaimed to be one of the most recognised names in the Southeast Asian contemporary art world. He skillfully infuses the artistic languages of European still life painting and Surrealism into his multifaceted artistic practice, also adding a personal touch by including his hobby to the present work. Utarit’s subjects are painted from the arrangement of his collection of figurines and found objects from model toys to anatomical models of skeletons. Full of symbolisms, the carefully crafted composition of Dead Soldier actively knocks at the viewer and activates their unlimited imagination.


    Banksy, Flying Copper, 2004

    Sold by Phillips, London, 4 March 2022 for GBP£37,800 (Premium)



    The artist’s courage to bring up sensitive political subjects is comparable to pseudonymous English street artist Banksy’s approach in making his work relevant to the current time. In Flying Copper, Banksy portrays a seemingly unfriendly grey-wear police holding a gun, yet satirically juxtaposing with a happy yellow smiley face and a friendly pair of angelic wings. Similarly here, Utarit’s Dead Soldier visually shows a harmless toy soldier, yet the lurking shadow casts over a heavy historical context. As an adult, the subject of a toy soldier naturally brings up the image of child’s play and the emotions of joy and nostalgia that associate with it. The choice of using this symbol cuts deep into the audience’s psyche, as something so harmless can also carry the weight of brutal reality. 


    The toy soldier features a visual metaphor that not only refers to Utarit’s collection of found objects, but also to the relationships between object and man, knowledge and personal experiences. The work encapsulates a sombre powerless emotion that originates from the artist's personal experience from the chaotic aftermath of a stirring event in Thai history. Skillfully painted, Dead Soldier is a prime example of the artist’s approach of using simple imagery to unravel complex topics in history and culture behind contemporary life.



     Natee Utarit at his Bangkok studio (Courtesy of the artist)



    Born in 1971 in Bangkok, Natee Utarit graduated in Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University, Bangkok in 1991. His work has been featured in exhibitions around the world, and is included in many renowned institutional collections, such the Bangkok University, Bangkok, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, as well as private collections in Europe and Asia.


    His recent solo exhibitions includes Natee Utarit – Déjà Vu: When The Sun Rises In The West, which was held at Silpakorn University from 4 March - 21 May 2022, Natee Utarit – Every Day, Every Day I Have The Blues with Richard Koh Fine Art at its spaces in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok from 4 - 12 June 2021. Utarit partakes in ongoing group exhibition Interaction Napoli 2022 at Fondazione Made in Cloister in Napoli (12 March - 17 September 2022) and his work was shown at the New York Asia Society Triennial titled We Do Not Dream Alone (27 October 2020 - 7 February 2021).


    Toy Story army scene, 1995 

    • Provenance

      Numthong Gallery, Bangkok
      Soka Art, Taipei
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Bangkok, Numthong Gallery, Natee Utarit: The amusement of dreams, hope and perfection series, 8 December 2007 – 19 January 2008
      Taipei, Soka Art, Beautiful Mind – Asian Contemporary Art Exhibition, 7 - 29 March 2009


Dead Soldier

signed, inscribed and dated 'Natee Utarit. 07 The Amusement of Dreams, Hope and Perfection series' on the reverse
oil on canvas
70 x 100 cm. (27 1/2 x 39 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

HK$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for HK$378,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 21 June 2022