King

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  • Condition Report

    Request Condition Report
  • 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

    身為東南亞最具天賦的當代藝術家之一,納堤·尤塔瑞對泰國社會政治語境的多元化藝術實踐,有著深刻的影響。尤塔瑞對超現實主義與華麗的超級寫實主義之結合堪比薩爾瓦多·達利,而他對全球政治、文化和歷史議題的尖銳且獨到之見解又為他的每一件作品奠定了豐富與多層次的基礎。

    本拍品《國王》以古典西方靜物畫的形式呈現。此類型畫作在16世紀和17世紀的荷蘭發展成為一種正式的藝術類型。由於其流於表面的裝飾性題材,靜物畫在歷史上只佔據西方學術思想流派中最低等級的位置。然而,它在普通荷蘭中產階級中的普遍接受度——並逐漸取代了教會和國家,成為藝術在荷蘭的主要贊助人——在當時宗教題材圖像被嚴厲禁止的環境下,隨著它能夠將多種宗教和寓言象徵意義隱藏在其小心選擇的題材背後而不斷增長。宗教和君主制在當代泰國文化中屬於至高無上的信條,對其公開的批評會被視為對中央政權的攻擊,在這樣的環境中,這種藝術類型對偏愛隱喻和隱藏象徵意義的尤塔瑞來說極具吸引力:

    「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。

    拉瑪的左邊是一座真人大小的法國啟蒙時代哲學家伏爾泰的大理石雕像,指著一本手中的小冊子,他畢生所著的主張思想自由和公民自由之2,000本典籍中的一本。伏爾泰倡導宗教寬容,反對宗教專制和君主專制,主張君主立憲制,而君主立憲制亦在1932年在泰國實行。更應景的是,拉瑪背對著的一輛偽裝成大砲的高爾夫球車,作為西方軟實力在東方的影響力所存在的潛在缺陷之不祥預兆,被完美地涵括在對這一自從被引入泰國後便一直被指責為代表精英主義之運動的指涉中。

    作為一場對「真實的再現」和對當代泰國社會背後複雜的歷史和文化之揭示,《國王》是《神、國王和國家》(2011年)三部曲系列中的第二件作品。這個短語直到二十一世紀初一直都是對泰國人普遍心態的概括。起源於英格蘭,並由拉瑪四世引入泰國,它代表著這樣一種信念:對國王的忠誠讓泰國民眾團結在一起,國王是人民尊崇的國父,是他通過對佛教機構的保護和支持,為國家帶來了繁榮和法治。泰國的三色國旗象徵著這三個機構之間的根本關係:紅色代表國家、白色代表宗教,而藍色,就像在西方一樣,代表了君權。透過覆蓋《國王》畫作背景的深藍色天鵝絨簾幕,可以(既是名副其實,也是隱喻)瞥見一片白色簾幕,前景是一隻滅燭罩,代表了一切皆為無常。這也是對西方靜物繪畫中「虛空派」的「一切終將逝去」的概念之寫照,例如小漢斯·霍爾拜因的《大使們》,這幅著名的肖像描繪了兩個年輕的貴族男子,周圍是他們財富和博學的象徵,但畫面卻被用投影法畫上去的人類骷髏所主導。

    繼承了東西方繪畫的傳統,但並不懼怕徹底重塑當今的繪畫語言,尤塔瑞最近在印度尼西亞國家美術館和新加坡美術館都舉辦了個展,並且他的作品還被曼谷大學、布里斯本的昆士蘭藝術博物館與現代藝術博物館、新加坡美術館等著名的公共機構,以及歐洲和亞洲的私人所收藏。

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33

PROPERTY OF AN IMPORTANT SOUTHEAST ASIAN COLLECTOR

King

2011
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.

Estimate
HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 
€116,000-174,000
$128,000-192,000

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019