Natee Utarit - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Thursday, December 3, 2020 | Phillips
  • "Optimism will only be ridiculous 
    when we find it is not that straightforward, 
    not a flat dimension, or not an explicit antonymic pair like black and white. We all live in a grey world where it is hard to determine which angle we should look at things from." —Natee Utarit

    Natee Utarit, one of the most gifted contemporary artists in Southeast Asia, is the master of the modern-day vanitas. An outlier in Thailand’s conservative artistic scene, where artists largely restrict their creative vocabulary to Thai-centric religious and sociological subjects, Utarit adopts the pictorial language of Western still life painting to ‘accurately depict the murky, complex atmosphere that surrounds the events of the present.’ i


    The Thai artist’s love of metaphors and hidden symbols manifests itself in Innocence is Overrated (lot 231) and Dead Duck Principle (2015), both of which appropriate Western-style storytelling traditions popular in classical 17th- and 18th-century Baroque and Romantic paintings to unravel some of the complex history and culture behind contemporary Thai society. These tableaux of inanimate animals, painted in warm, rich hues which jar with the disquieting imagery, use irony to urge the viewer to confront uncomfortable truths in modern society. Both works belong to Utarit’s Optimism Is Ridiculous series, which he began in 2012 and completed in 2017. 


    Johann-Friedrich Grooth, Still Life: Dead Duck, 1746, collection of The State Hermitage Museum, Russia

    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.

    i Natee Utarit, quoted in Richard Koh Fine Art, Natee Utarit: Illustration of the Crisis, Kuala Lumpur, 2013, p. 9. 

    • Provenance

      Megumi Ogita Gallery, Tokyo
      SBI Art Auction Co., Tokyo, 22 April 2017, lot 209
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Tokyo, Megumi Ogita Gallery, Natee Utarit: Optimism is Ridiculous, 10 May - 4 June 2016

    • Literature

      Demetrio Paparoni, Natee Utarit: Optimism is Ridiculous, Milan, 2017, p. 228 (illustrated)


Dead Duck Principle

signed, titled and dated 'Natee Utarit. 15 optimism is Ridiculous, "Dead duck Principle"' on the reverse
oil on canvas
39.5 x 49.7 cm. (15 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

HK$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for HK$119,700

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 4 December 2020