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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Art Seasons Gallery, Singapore
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Singapore, Richard Koh Fine Art, God, King and Country, 12 – 15 January 2012

  • Literature

    Richard Koh Fine Art, Natee Utarit: Illustration of the Crisis, Kuala Lumpur, 2013, pp. 114, 115, 238 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Socio-political discourse in Thailand has profoundly influenced the multifaceted practice of Natee Utarit, one of the most gifted contemporary artists in Southeast Asia. Utarit combines surrealism with a slick hyperrealism comparable to Salvador Dali, but a sharp and discerning take on global political, cultural and historical affairs underpins each of his complex and multilayered works.

    The present lot, King, is presented as a classical Western still life painting, which developed as a formal artistic genre in the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries. Still life historically occupied the lowest rung of the hierarchy of genres in Western academic thinking owing to its superficially decorative subject matter. However, its popularity amongst the ordinary Dutch middle classes - who gradually displaced the church and state as the principal patrons of art in the Netherlands - grew from its ability to hide a multitude of religious and allegorical symbolism within its carefully chosen subjects, at a time when images of religious subjects were strictly forbidden. It is a genre which appeals to Utarit’s love of metaphors and hidden symbols, in an environment where overt criticism of religion and the monarchy are regarded as attacks upon the central, unassailably sacred tenets of contemporary Thai culture:

    Oddly enough, it is the pictorial language of Western painting of centuries past and its obligation to answer such basic questions as who? what? where? how? that can more accurately depict the murky, complex atmosphere that surrounds the events of the present.” (Natee Utarit, quoted in Richard Koh Fine Art, Natee Utarit: Illustration of the Crisis, Kuala Lumpur, 2013, p. 9)

    Central to the story of King is King Rama IV (1804-1868), a major cultural reformer who embraced Western innovations and was known as Thailand’s "father of science and technology". His efforts at modernising the country even came to be immortalised in the Broadway musical and Hollywood film The King and I. He is represented by a small golden statue of Phra Siam Devadhiraj, the guardian deity of Thailand, which was commissioned by Rama IV around 1860. The statue peers through a telescope (astronomy being one of Rama IV’s well-known interests) at a colourful anatomical model of a cow, and perches upon an empty set of scales atop a stack of books – knowledge and the rule of law supporting his reign rather than the weapons of outmoded regimes. A toppled representation of a crown references Thailand’s proud status as the only Southeast Asian country to have evaded Western colonisation.

    To Rama’s left stands a life-sized marble statue of the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire, who gestures to a pamphlet in his hand, one of the 2,000 books and texts he wrote in his lifetime arguing for freedom of thought and civil liberties. Voltaire championed religious tolerance and for an end to absolutist religious and monarchical authority in favour of a constitutional monarchy, which was implemented in Thailand in 1932. Rather fittingly, Rama turns away from a golf trolley disguised as a cannon, an ominous allusion to the potentially flawed influence of Western soft power in the East perfectly encapsulated by reference to a sport dogged by accusations of elitism since its introduction to Thailand.

    A tableau that reproduces a veritable ‘slice of life’ and unravels some of the complex history and culture behind contemporary Thai society, King is the second work in the tripartite series God, King and Country (2011). This phrase was a key mantra of Thai mentality until the early twenty-first century. Originating in England and introduced to Thailand by Rama IV, it came to represent the belief that Thai citizens were united through loyalty to the king, the revered father of the nation, who brought prosperity and legitimacy to the nation through protection and support for Buddhist institutions. The intrinsic interrelationship of these three institutions is symbolised by Thailand’s tricolour flag: red for nation, white for religion and blue, just as in the West, for monarchy. The deep blue velvet curtain that dominates the background of King, through which a sliver of white curtain is glimpsed (literally and metaphorically), is foregrounded by a candle-snuffer, the Buddhist notion of impermanence taking precedence above all. Its function mirrors the Western momento mori of still life vanitas paintings, for example Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Ambassadors, an acclaimed portrait of two young noblemen surrounded by symbols of their wealth and education, which is dominated by an anamorphic skull.

    Heir to Eastern and Western painting traditions, but unafraid to radically reinvent the pictorial language of today, Utarit has been honoured with recent solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Indonesia and Singapore Art Museum, as well as inclusion in acclaimed public collections such as 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.

  • Catalogue Essay



    「奇怪的是,過去幾個世紀的西方繪畫以及它對何人?何事?何地?如何?等基本問題做出回答的義務反而將圍繞著當下事件混濁而又複雜的氛圍描繪得更加準確。」(納堤·尤塔瑞,摘自Richard Koh Fine Art,《納堤·尤塔瑞:危機圖解》,吉隆坡,2013年,第9頁)

    《國王》一作中故事的中心人物國王拉瑪四世(1804-1868年),是一位大力主張西方革新的文化改革家,且被視作泰國的「科學和技術之父」。他為實現國家的現代化所做的努力甚至在百老匯的音樂劇和好萊塢的電影《國王與我》中被呈現出來,讓人們永懷不忘。作品中的國王以拉瑪四世在1860年委託打造的一小樽泰國守護神Phra Siam Devadhiraj之金色雕像的形象出現。雕像透過望遠鏡(眾所周知天文學是拉瑪四世的一大興趣)看向一頭彩色的牛解剖模型,並站立在一張放置於一堆書籍上方的量秤之上——代表他憑藉知識與法律治國,而非運用過時的政權手段。對王室這一顛覆性的呈現指涉著泰國作為東南亞唯一一個未曾被西方殖民統治的國家之驕傲地位。




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signed, titled and dated 'Natee Utarit 2011 "King”' on the reverse
oil on linen
200 x 320 cm. (78 3/4 x 125 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2011, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Art Seasons Gallery.

HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019