teamLab - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 25, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Transcending Nature: teamLab’s ‘Universe of Water Particles’

    'Universe of Water Particles', 2013, is a spectacular computer-generated waterfall in an immersive 3-D virtual space. Created by the renowned Tokyo-based collective teamLab, this is the first digital artwork to be offered at auction by the artist. Contemporary Specialist and Head of Sale, Sandy Ma, explores how the work is influenced by traditional Japanese art, Shintoism and Zen Buddhism.

  • Provenance

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

  • Exhibited

    Shenzhen, OCT Harbour-OCT Creative Exhibition Center, teamLab: Dance! Art Exhibition, Learn & Play! Future Park, 8 July – 30 November 2017
    Ohio, Dayton Art Institute, Elements of Nature: Water, 17 July – 16 October, 2016
    Oita, Oita City Art Museum, DANCE! Art Museum / Learn & Play! Future Park teamLab Islands, 15 July – 25 September, 2016
    Singapore, ArtScience Museum, FUTURE WORLD: WHERE ART MEETS SCIENCE, permanent display
    California, Pace Art + Technology, teamLab: Living Digital Space and Future Parks, 6 February – 18 December, 2016
    Istanbul, Borusan Contemporary, teamLab: Between Art and Physical Space, 4 March – 16 October, 2016
    Osaka, Dojima River Forum, Universe of Water Particles, Osaka, permanent display
    Seattle, Pace Gallery, Seattle Art Fair, 30 July – 2 August, 2015
    New York, Pace Gallery, teamLab: Ultra Subjective Space, 17 July – 15 August, 2014
    Saga Prefectural Art Museum; Saga Prefectural Space & Science Museum; Saga Prefectural Kyushu Ceramic Museum; Saga Prefectural Nagoya Castle Museum, teamLab and Saga Merry-go-round Exhibition, 28 February – 22 March, 2014
    Singapore, Ikkan Art Gallery, teamLab Universe of Water Particles, 15 March – 26 April 2014
    Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Convention and Exhibtion Centre, Art Stage Singapore 2014, 16 – 19 January, 2014
    Osaka, Dojima River Forum, Dojima River Biennale 2013 “Little Water”, 20 July – 18 August, 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    “To explore art through digital media…to create a place where people could collaborate and explore across the different fields of science and technology and art”
    Toshiyuki Inoko

    Founded in 2001 by the physicist and IT graduate Toshiyuki Inoko, teamLab is a Tokyo-based interdisciplinary art collective whose practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, technology, and design, while breaking down the paradigms surrounding their conventional definitions and divisions. Rooted in the traditions of Japanese art, the collective’s works explore human behaviour in the modern information age, while proposing innovative constructs for societal and personal development. Phillips is both honoured and excited to present a work by teamLab to the international auction market for the very first time.

    Counting over 400 members– from designers, to engineers and architects – teamLab has had major institutional and commercial exhibitions internationally and most notably at the prestigious Grand Palais in Paris, also participating in the 2013 Singapore Biennale. Impactful, ground-breaking and aesthetically powerful, the collective’s works have been heralded as the vanguard of post-internet art, a contemporary movement that is sure to define global creative ethos in the years to come.

    Displayed through an ingenuous amalgamation of interlinked screens and computers, Universe of Water Particles depicts an ever-evolving virtual waterfall within an immersive, three-dimensional space. teamLab expresses the materiality of water as an endless continuum, where tessellations of droplets flow and fall in accordance with computer-calculated movements. The subject matter of waterfalls is a motif archetypal to the group, highlighted in works such as Ever Blossoming Life Waterfall - Deep in the Mountains of Shikoku and The Waterfall on Saga Castle, but Universe of Water Particles is perhaps the group’s greatest rendering of the concept ultrasubjective space. A term coined by the group, ultrasubjective space is an idea referring to a distinct form of spatial depiction prevalent in pre-modern Japanese paintings; in such pieces, oceans, rivers and other bodies of water were expressed as a series of curvilinear lines to convey movement and simulate life. Indeed this work and much of teamLab’s ever-growing body of works point towards a heritage of Zen Buddhist and Shintoist sensibilities, reflecting a profound love and respect for nature – an idea grounded in Japanese culture and philosophy. By distorting the objectivity of space and time, Universe of Water Particles coaxes its viewers to explore preconceptions of how we perceive nature in a new, subjective experience founded within the technology of today. Universe of Water Particles further breaks down the boundaries between the physical and digital through the simple involvement of the viewer. By engaging with our multiple senses, the work animates the space around it thus alluring its audience into interacting with its very fabric. Universe of Water Particles lies at the crossroads of science and art, providing its audience with an audio-visual feast for the senses.

    This 5-channel artwork comes in the form of a software programme, and can be displayed at a minimum of 3.5 meters high with LCD screens, or as tall as 15 meters with the use of projectors. This piece has also been created to continually adapt to advancements in technology: as technology evolves and changes, teamLab will replace and upgrade the software to adapt to the future operating systems. The inclusion of such a warranty provides collectors with a peace of mind, as the artists have thoughtfully provided a solution to display the work over time. Not only is the software of Universe of Water Particles malleable in scale to fit to various installation spaces, it can also be displayed using hardware equipment suited to the locale of each installation. Yet the fact that the software, installation and thus what we currently perceive as the very essence of the artwork will adapt over time makes Universe of Water Particles such a seminal work and a statement of breakthrough, as it will not merely remain a snapshot of the present – instead existing as a fluid entity capable of encapsulating the future.

    teamLab’s works are in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; Asia Society Museum, New York; Borusan Contemporary Art Collection, Istanbul; Mori Building, Roppongi, Tokyo and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

    Phillips wishes to thank teamLab and Ikkan Sanada for their assistance with the cataloguing of the present lot.

Property of an Important Asian Collector


Universe of Water Particles

digital work, 1920 x 5400 pixels, 5 channels, continuous loop
dimensions variable, displayed as 345 x 122 cm (135 7/8 x 48 in.) on 5 display monitors
Executed in 2013, this work is number 5 from an edition of 6 plus 1 artist's proof, is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by teamLab, and an extendable 10-year warranty issued by teamLab from the date of auction. The lot offered is the software programme and does not include the hardware.

HK$650,000 - 950,000 

Sold for HK$1,875,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

General Enquiries
+852 2318 2000

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2017