And Then x 6 (Platinum & White: The Superflat Method)

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Takashi Murakami and Andy Warhol’s names are often conflated in contemporary art historical discourse as a means to thematically link the oeuvres of the two artistic powerhouses, born some three decades apart. Much like his Western predecessor, Murakami’s artwork has sought to scrutinise the interrelationship between art and commerce, paving a plane for both high and low art to co-exist. And yet, the “Japanese Warhol” exists far beyond this ascribed moniker—Murakami’s art is one which fuses varying strands of dichotomous influences: traditional nihonga Japanese painting versus contemporary Japanese painting; nihonga vis-à-vis Western media; as well as pre and post war Japanese culture, lexicon, and visual prompts. It is against this rich backdrop of cultural, historical, and commercial influences that Murakami has created his inimitable rubric of Superflat, an elaborate theory which forms the crucial lens through which one must read his art. An essence of all that is Murakami, Mr. DOB is the epitome of the artist—at once a mascot, a self-portrait, and an alter ego, Mr. DOB was Murakami’s first signature creation in the early 1990s, and has remained the single most recognisable figure in his entire body of work. In the present work, Mr. DOB has been rendered in a brilliant white, set against a metallic platinum leaf background. Mr. DOB simultaneously amalgamates the binaries of high and low art: the reverence usually reserved for Japanese and Western precious metal paintings or icons of deities (see for example the Christ Pantocrator mosaic from the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) is juxtaposed against the cartoonish, grinning features of Mr. DOB.

    Recalling a huge variety of cartoon figures spanning Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Sonic the Hedgehog, Pyonkichi (from Dokonjo Gaeru [Gutsy Frog]), Doraemon—and much more, Mr. DOB captured the artist’s wish to create a Japanese cartoon icon as immediately recognisable as Hello Kitty, Pikachu, and Disney’s signature mouse. Reflecting on his creation nearly a decade later, Murakami stated: "I set out to investigate the secret of market survivability - the universality of characters such as Mickey Mouse, Sonic the Hedgehog, Doraemon, Miffy, Hello Kitty…” (Murakami quoted in Jeff Howe, “The Two Faces of Takashi Murakami”, Wired, 2003, online). The character’s name is a contraction of various Japanese sub-culture references. Combining the Romanisation of comedian Yuri Toru’s catchphrase “oshamanbe”, with “Dobojite Dobojite” (Why? Why?) — a deliberate mispronunciation of “doshite” (why) uttered by characters in the 1970s manga cartoon Inakappe Taishō (The Country General) — Mr. DOB is a deliberate affront to logic and sense itself. This very nonsensical nature is literally blazoned upon and makes up Mr. DOB’s physiognomy: as we can see in the present work, the “D” and “B” make up his left and right ears, and the “O” his smiling face.

    But in true Murakami form, the deceptively simple or even blasé often necessitates a much more cerebral analysis. In essence, though “DOB” has no meaning, it harks back to Murakami’s doctoral thesis, the titular investigation of which can be seen as a precursor to even Superflat itself: “Imi no muimi no imi” (“Meaning of the Meaningless of Meaning”.) This thesis title breathed life into the artist’s practice that has been highlighted by a unique blend of nihilism and cynicism when inspecting his native culture. This essentially “meaningless meaning” was captured in one critic’s summary of Mr. DOB: “He faces the world with a question continually on his lips: ‘Why is this important? Why is this meaningful? Why is this good? Why is this read? Why is this art?’” (quoted from Takashi Murakami: summon monsters? open the door? heal? or die?, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2001, p.62) Indeed, the “why?” that represents Mr. DOB encapsulates Murakami’s desire for the viewer to continually challenge contemporary society’s conventions.

    Furthermore, Mr. DOB can also be seen as a literal physicalisation of Murakami’s singular enquiry into the co-dependence between consumerist culture and art itself, mixed in with a distinctive hint of post-war Japanese culture. In 1991, Murakami’s debut show Takashi, Tamiya — a title which referenced the famous Japanese toymaker Tamiya Inc.—showcased a series entitled Signboard TAMIYA, in which aspects of the American flag, the Tamiya Inc. company logo, and American soldier figurines were all intertwined to create boards where the outlines of soldiers were somewhat burned into the stars above the toy logo. Rife with meaning, these works can be considered a post-war investigation into the identity of Japan following post-American-occupation, and the otaku (loosely simplified as “geeky”) culture that sprung forth following—a generation revolving around toys, anime, and manga. Murakami maintains that in the wake of a World War II defeat and postwar occupation, Japan turned to otaku culture as a means of grappling with tough subjects, preferring childlike, animated figures and forms which were free of historical meaning. Out of this setting, famous Japanese cartoons emerged, giving way to a huge production of toys, comic books, and various other paraphernalia. Mr. DOB, with its simple and easily replicable form, can therefore be seen not only as a figurehead that evokes the likes of American pop art icons such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, but also as a symbol of the mass avalanche of Japanese cartoons and playthings which flooded post-war Japan.

    When taken alongside this context, we see many strands coalesce in the present works. Mr. DOB is a hybrid emblem that unites many dualities: East and West, pre and post-war Japan, high and low art, consumerist culture and high art forms. Forever ageless, Mr. DOB is the paragon of Takashi Murakami’s oeuvre that successfully captures the archetypal “Murakami effect” of a decentralised view of art history. It is thus no wonder that Mr. DOB has become a lasting symbol of the artist’s erudite sensibilities. Featured in the MoMA’s own collection, but also the artist’s 2003 collaboration with Louis Vuitton, Kanye West’s 2008 music video “Good Morning”, and the more recent collaboration with Virgil Abloh, “Future History”, Mr. DOB is here to stay in contemporary discourse, and will remain the pinnacle of the artist’s career and the very definition of Murakami himself.

  • Catalogue Essay

    村上隆和安迪.沃荷這兩個名字在當代藝術的歷史語境中經常被混為一談,藉此將這兩位出生前後相隔了三十年的藝術圈大腕的作品以主題進行連結。與他的西方前輩非常相似的是,村上隆的藝術作品試圖審視藝術與商業之間的相互聯繫,為高低藝術鋪起共同存在的面。然而,「日本的沃荷」之存在遠遠超出了這個綽號本身 - 村上隆的作品融合了兩種完全相對立的藝術影響:傳統的「日本畫」繪畫相對於當代日本繪畫; 日本畫相對於西方媒體;以及戰前與戰後的日本文化、詞彙和視覺提示。在如此豐富的文化、歷史,以及商業影響的背景下, 村上隆創造了他無可比擬的「超扁平」(Superflat)創作概念,而正是這一精細的理論形成了我們對他的藝術進行解讀的關鍵方式。作為村上隆作品的精髓,DOB先生就是藝術家本人的化身-作為吉祥物、自畫像,以及第二自我,DOB先生在90年代早期便立即成為了村上隆的標誌性作品,並且一直以來都是他所有作品中最具辨識性的人物。本拍品中,藝術家將Mr. DOB以明亮的白色呈現於帶著金屬光澤的鉑箔背景之上。Mr. DOB同時融合了高雅和大眾兩類藝術本質:通常僅供日本和西方珍貴的金身畫像或聖靈畫像所獨享的尊榮(見耶路撒冷聖墓教堂圓頂上基督普世君王鑲嵌畫為例)與Mr. DOB那卡通式、齜牙咧嘴的面容放在一起形成對比。

    這讓我們聯想起許多卡通人物,包括華德·迪士尼的米老鼠、刺猬索尼克、平吉(來自《根性青蛙》)、哆啦A夢等等,DOB先生完成了藝術家希望創造出一個能像Hello Kitty、皮卡丘和迪士尼的標誌性的米老鼠那樣讓人們立刻認出的日本卡通偶像的願望。在創作DOB先生近十年後,村上隆回憶說:「我開始探究關於市場生存能力的秘密 - 米老鼠、刺猬索尼克、哆啦A夢、米菲兔、Hello Kitty等人物的普遍性...”(村上隆,引自Jeff Howe,《村上隆的兩面》,《Wired》雜誌,2003,截自網路。)這個角色的名字來自對各種日本次文化參考的縮寫。結合喜劇演員Yuri Toru所用的流行詞「oshamanbe」與「Dobojite Dobojite」(為什麼?為什麼?)的拉丁化 - 故意用上了1970年代的漫畫卡通《InakappeTaishō》(鄉村將軍)中人物將「doshite」(為什麼)一詞的錯誤發音 - DOB先生是對邏輯和意義本身的刻意侮辱。這種非常荒謬的本質也被逐字刻劃在DOB先生的外貌構成上:正如我們在這件拍品中所看到的那樣,字母「D」和「B」構成他的左耳和右耳,而字母「O」則構成了他的笑臉。

    但在真正的村上隆形式中,看似簡單甚至司空見慣的其實需要更多的大腦分析。從本質上講,雖然「DOB」沒有任何意義,但它可以追溯到村上隆的博士論文,其甚至可以看作是「超扁平」的前身的同名研究:「Imi no muimi no imi」(「意義的無意義的意義」。)這篇論文的標題為藝術家的實踐注入了活力,而該實踐顯示在對他的本國文化的審視中將虛無主義和犬儒主義的獨特融合上。這個本質上「毫無意義的意義」體現在一位評論家對DOB先生所做出的總結中:「他面對世界時一直有一個問題掛在嘴邊:「為什麼這是重要的?為什麼這是有意義的?為什麼這樣是好的?為什麼這是解讀?為什麼這是藝術?」」(引自東京,東京都現代美術館,《村上隆:召喚怪物?打開門?治愈?或死?》摘自展覽畫冊,2001年,第62頁)的確,這個「為什麼?」 代表著DOB先生身上包含的村上隆寄予觀眾去不斷挑戰當代社會習俗的渴望。

    此外,DOB先生也可以看作是隆上隆對消費主義文化與藝術本身的相互依賴關係的獨特探究的一種直觀物化的體現,同時融入了戰後日本文化的獨特暗示。 在1991年,村上隆的首次個《Takashi,Tamiya》—展覽名稱來源於日本著名玩具製造商Tamiya Inc. - 展出了一個名為《TAMIYA廣告牌》(Signboard TAMIYA)的系列,其中美國國旗、Tamiya Inc.公司的logo,以及美國士兵雕像都交織在一起構成這塊廣告牌,士兵的輪廓在某種程度上被燒成了玩具標誌上方的星星。作品充斥著意義,可以被看作是對戰後結束美國占領後的那個日本的一種身份的探究,以及伴隨著一代人對玩具、動漫的熱衷所產生的御宅族(可簡視為「極客」)文化。村上隆堅持認為,在第二次世界大戰中日本的失敗和戰後被佔領之後,日本將御宅族文化作為一種應對艱難的主題的手段,並且轉向那些本身不帶有任何歷史意義的富有童趣的、動畫般的人物和形式。在這種背景下,出現了著名的日本漫畫,導致了玩具、漫畫書,以及各種其他配件的大量生產。Mr. DOB,以其簡單且極易複製的形式,因此不應僅僅被視為對安迪·沃荷和羅伊·李奇登斯坦等美國波普藝術代表人物的簡單聯想,更應該視作是席捲戰後日本的卡通和玩具風潮的一種象徵。

    在這種語境下,我們在這件拍品中看到許多的合併。 DOB先生是一個結合了許多二元性的混合標誌:東方和西方、戰前和戰後的日本、高低藝術、消費主義文化和高級藝術的形式。永遠具有永恆性,DOB先生作為村上隆作品中的典範,成功地捕捉了藝術史的分散式視角在「村上效應」中的原型。因此,無疑DOB先生已成為藝術家多元感知的持久象徵。展示於紐約現代藝術博物館的館藏中,同時也出現在藝術家於2003年與路易威登的合作中,在Kanye West的2008的音樂錄影帶《早安》(Good Morning)中,以及最近與Virgil Abloh合作的《未來歷史》(Future History)中,DOB先生將繼續在現代話語中有其一席之地,並將一直是藝術家職業生涯的巔峰之作,且將繼續定義村上隆本身。

  • Artist Bio

    Takashi Murakami

    Japanese • 1962

    Takashi Murakami is best known for his contemporary combination of fine art and pop culture. He uses recognizable iconography like Mickey Mouse and cartoonish flowers and infuses it with Japanese culture. The result is a boldly colorful body of work that takes the shape of paintings, sculptures and animations.

    In the 1990s, Murakami founded the Superflat movement in an attempt to expose the "shallow emptiness of Japanese consumer culture." The artist plays on the familiar aesthetic of mangas, Japanese-language comics, to render works that appear democratic and accessible, all the while denouncing the universality and unspecificity of consumer goods. True to form, Murakami has done collaborations with numerous brands and celebrities including Kanye West, Louis Vuitton, Pharrell Williams and Google.

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Property from an Important Asian Collection

And Then x 6 (Platinum & White: The Superflat Method)

2012
signed and dated 'TAKASHI 2012' on the overlap
acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on board
100 x 100 cm. (39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2012.

Estimate
HK$3,800,000 - 5,000,000 
€442,000-581,000
$487,000-641,000

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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