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Phillips to hold 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening and Day Sales in Hong Kong
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin (three works), 2002. Estimate: HK$15,000,000 - 20,000,000 ($1,920,000-2,560,000). Image courtesy of Phillips.

HONG KONG.- Phillips will present two sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design this Autumn in Hong Kong – an Evening Sale on 25 November and an inaugural Day Sale on 26 November. The Day Sale is the first additional sale in this category since Phillips held its initial Evening Sale in Hong Kong in November 2016. Both sales will offer nearly 150 lots, with a total low estimate of approximately HKD 137 million / USD 17.6 million.

Jonathan Crockett, Deputy Chairman and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia: “Phillips’ innovative and selective curatorial approach to our auction offering has resonated precisely with our growing client base in Asia, leading to our highest ever auction results with numerous artist records achieved in Spring 2018. This season again we have placed a strong emphasis on gathering the best selection across our Evening and Day Sales, with a wide variety of artists and categories, some of which have never been presented before at auction in the region. From Chagall’s delicate 1929 gouache ‘Le violoniste bleu’, Wifredo Lam’s monumental 1945 painting ‘Sur les Traces (also known as Transformation)’, to high-in-demand artists such as Banksy and KAWS, our Evening Sale spans nearly nine decades of art history. Additionally, for the first time we will hold a tightly curated Day Sale, including prominent works by Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, George Condo, Zao Wou-Ki, and the largest selection of modern design furniture presented thus far at auction in Asia.”

Sandy Ma, Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art: “Following the success of our last 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale in May, our international team of experts have once again amassed an outstanding selection of modern and contemporary works of art with desirable provenance from around the world, responding to current collecting trends and tastes. We are particularly honoured to be offering a rare set of three pumpkin paintings by popular contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama – ‘Pumpkin (three works)’ executed in 2002, representing a unique opportunity to collect a complete trio of the artist’s most iconic subject, each in different colours.”

The leading highlight of the Evening Sale is Cuban-Chinese artist Wifredo Lam’s representative work, Sur les Traces. Painted in 1945 at the height of the artist’s career, this work exemplifies the transculturation of the artist’s practice, integrating Afro-Cuban and Chinese elements with imaginative and far-ranging freedom. Following the 2016 Wifredo Lam travelling exhibition to Mainland China, the appearance of Sur les Traces at auction serves as a rare opportunity to acquire one of the artist’s most important works from the period and illustrates the growing popularity of his work in Asia.

After establishing Richard Lin’s artist record in Hong Kong last May, Phillips will offer for the first time at auction yet another exquisite work by Lin – Painting Relief. Created at the early apex of the artist’s career in 1963, this large scale piece (101.6 x 111.8 cm) is an outstanding constituent of the artist’s iconic White Series. Composed of delicately coloured oblongs of aluminium and perspex, Lin balances fields of monotone abstraction which seem to float independently of one another, delineated by acute variations in tone.

Painted upon Yun Gee’s return to New York in 1939, Three Graces offers an oneiric narrative, laden with symbols and allusions, making it one of the most unique works by the artist. Like the Renaissance artists who revived the theme of the three graces, Yun Gee portrays them as an embodiment of female beauty and charm. In the present lot, the three muses stand at the centre of the composition in a fantastical landscape setting, and are surrounded by fanciful creatures. Yun Gee occupied a unique position in the history of Chinese art – he was an early voice in the creation of a global language of modernism, and a pioneer in the establishment of a unique aesthetic.

Marc Chagall’s Le violoniste bleu comes from a private French collector. The titular musician sits while playing, utterly absorbed in his music, eyes closed in dream-like concentration. Painted in 1929, Le violoniste bleu captures the atmosphere of the Happy Twenties, coinciding with a time of prosperity for Chagall and his wife Bella. Through the themes of music and colour, Chagall captures an emotional connection to his motherland and his past through the figure of the violinist and the moon, while looking into the future ahead of him, represented by the Parisian symbol of the “bouquiniste”, an icon of his new city. This picture was formerly in the collection of the wife of the prominent French art critic Maurice Raynal, who was considered to be an important standard-bearer for Cubism.

Contemporary Art
As a rare triptych of three exemplary versions of the artist’s most iconic subject, Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin (three works) is a powerful culmination of the artist’s creative achievements. Painted in 2002, these three unique canvases represent not only a lifetime dedicated to this charismatic and highly personal motif, but also express Kusama’s accomplished technical ability and formal innovations within the realm of painting. Carving out an idiosyncratic space between abstraction, and figuration – evincing profound links to the repetitive symbolism of Pop Art, the hypnotic illusions of Op Art, and the formal project of Minimalism – Pumpkin (three works) reifies Kusama as an influential figure within the history of contemporary art, whilst ultimately pertaining to a vision that is unequivocally hers and hers alone.

Takashi Murakami’s spectacular painting executed in 2015, Untitled, bridges traditional Japanese-style nihon-ga painting and the worlds of contemporary art, animation, and popular culture. Murakami is described as ‘the king of the colourful psychedelic style’ as he has coined ‘Superflat’. His diverse sources of inspiration give way to mixing playful vibrant characters resembling cartoons, with darker, more menacing subtexts. Untitled offers a coveted and painstakingly detailed painting exemplary of the multifaceted work that has earned Murakami the revered status of Contemporary pop art icon.

Phillips holds many of world auction records for KAWS, including the record for a sculpture by the artist. The present monumental sculpture, COMPANION (RESTING PLACE), measures 152.4 x 160 x 203 cm. Provocatively half-dissected and rendered in a sophisticated grey-scale palette, this work monumentalises the beloved character created by Brian Donnelly, one of the most popular artists of his generation, who goes by the pseudonym KAWS. Implementing KAWS’s signature logos, the “X” replaces one of the eyes, the protruding crossbones, though bisected, signal an ear or hair, while the playfully oversized features provide comedic relief to the underlying tones of existentialism. This work is one of the only few life-size grey sculptures completed during the final season of the artist’s brand OriginalFake.

Two works by the highly sought-after artist Banksy will also be offered. Both pictures on cardboard share the same title, Abe Lincoln, and are from a series of only three. They were created in 2008 when Banksy visited New Orleans, three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. There, Banksy used the still-tattered urban fabric of New Orleans as an eloquent backdrop for his critiques of the situation.

Phillips’ first Day Sale of this category in Asia will present over 80 lots of modern and contemporary Western and Asian works of art, including editions and photographs. The sale will also present 36 works of Danish and Italian design, the largest selection ever offered in Asia, including works by Hans J. Wegner, Finn Juhl, and Piero Fornasetti, among others.

Charlotte Raybaud, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art: “Our inaugural Day Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design will present an array of western art, featuring such sought-after artists as George Condo, Jonas Wood, and David Hockney. Their Asian counterparts include Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, to name a few. We are particularly excited to offer three works by Tomoo Gokita, representing different phases in his career. We will also feature works by representative Chinese artists including Zao Wou-Ki, Liu Ye, and Mao Yan, while Southeast Asian artists such as Filipino artist Jigger Cruz, Vietnamese artist Le Pho, and Indonesian artist Christine Ay Tjoe will also be represented.”

Western and Asian Modern and Contemporary Art
Clowns began appearing in George Condo’s oeuvre in the early 1980s, a subject matter that showcased the artist’s subversion of portraiture, basing his characters on memory and imagination rather than mere appropriation. Son of Bozo comes from a group of paintings that began in 2006, showing clown-like figures in costumes adorned with multi-coloured polka-dots. The work - hailing from the American television sensation ‘Bozo the Clown’ from the 1940s to ’60s - sees that the innocent, clownish trope of Pierrot has been coyly subverted by Condo.

Works by other modern and contemporary artists will also be presented, incluidng Ugo Rondinone, Eddie Martinez, Jonas Wood, David Hockney, Martin Kippenberger, and Anthony Gormley, among others.

Takashi Murakami is one of the most successful contemporary artists to emerge from Post-War Asia. Growing up a Japanese immigrant in suburban New Jersey, Madsaki developed a tough, boisterous personality, which is clear in his work. Having learnt the ropes of street art as part of the New York collective ‘Barnstormers’, utilising aspects of ‘lo-fi’ aesthetics in his practice is something Madsaki has in common with Murakami. In this Flower collaboration with MADSAKI, Murakami collaborates with Madsaki on a graffiti-esque rendition of his iconic flowers. This work is recognisably Neo-Pop, whilst still highlighting each artists’ individual style. This aesthetic cohesiveness is a testament to the chemistry between these collaborators.

Also to be presented is “SCULPTURE”, a work in which Murakami collaborates with influential fashion designer and creative mind Virgil Abloh.

Phillips successfully sold Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita’s Women in Crime (2015) for HKD 2.74 million last May, achieving a world auction record for the artist. Responding to current market demand, Phillips will present three works by Gokita this season, representing his different phases of creation – Cheap Sensation (2007), Waiting Game (2007), and Portrait of an Insomniac Junior-High Student (2010).

Tomoo Gokita’s works ensnare viewers into the underground subculture realms of abstraction, surrealism and film noir – subtle and magnetic. In Cheap Sensation, Gokita renders a female figure in a multi-layered A-line dress, a grey ‘V’ indicative of her cleavage. The silent, dramatic quality of the work is highly seductive, and yet it also draws a sense of unease through the viewers’ inability to logically process the subject as a beautiful woman.

Works by other contemporary Japanese artists include Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, and Ayako Rokkaku.

Zao Wou-Ki’s works on paper reveal a more delicate, contemplative side of the artist’s practice. Untitled, 1956 comes from an Important Private Asian Collection and sees Zao’s continued exploration of the realm of abstraction. In this work, Zao rediscovers and returns to his cultural roots through the use of ancient Chinese bronze and oracle bone inscriptions, as depicted through the small glyphs scattered against bright blue hues. Throughout his career, Zao illustrates the constant dialogue between his cultural roots and his western exposure. Although Zao still kept to abstraction, his work conveys a more raw and unhurried approach of his ink aesthetic.

Other exciting modern works by Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita, T’ang Haywen, Lee Ufan, and Kwon Young-Woo will also be presented.

Big Pigeon, is a rare early work from an important Private European Collection, painted in 1995 when Liu Ye had just returned to China, steeping in his personal memories and embedded inspiration. It is a humorous inside-joke spun into a surrealistic scene taken from a real event: the bespectacled protagonist - the artist’s German dealer at the time, Klaus Märtens from Galerie Taube - takes a tumble while clasping a painting. Meanwhile, an oversized, intransigent pigeon peers through a window pane. One is able to detect Liu’s love of René Magritte via Big Pigeon’s eschewal of reality and its blatant impossibility.

In addition, works by other contemporary Chinese artists Wang Guangyi, Mao Yan, and Ma Sibo will also be on offer.

Important Modern Design
Comprising 36 lots of Nordic and Italian design, the Design section of the Day sale is the largest ever offered at Phillips in Asia, including the following designers Hans J. Wegner, Finn Juhl, and Piero Fornasetti.

The Early Swivel Armchair, model no. JH502, and Early ‘Architect’s desk’, model no. JH571, by Hans J. Wegner, both of these models were exhibited at the prestigious ‘Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild’.

The present Two-Seater Sofa, model no. FJ 53 was designed by the Danish architect Finn Juhl, and executed by the master cabinetmaker Niels Vodder. Both Juhl’s and Vodder’s reputations are indissolubly connected, a symbiotic partnership that lasted for almost two decades. Only the prodigious talent of the cabinetmaker Niels Vodder could have ever produced such an elegantly and sculpturally formed work. The sofa eloquently defines its adherence to sculptural forms, much influenced by Twentieth-Century European artists.

The present Rare ‘Piccolo Coromandel’ Cabinet designed by Piero Fornasetti features imaginary architecture and landscapes, which conjure up a fantastical atmosphere inspired by oriental motifs. The ‘Piccolo Coromandel’, was transfer-printed and then adorned in gold leaf, onto a decorative background of burr walnut-veneered wood.

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