Damien Hirst (born 1965), The Importance of Elsewhere -The Kingdom of Heaven Butterflies and household paint on canvas, 2006, 292 x 243.8cm (114.9 x 95.9 in) Estimate: HK$18 million/ US$2.3 million
SEOUL.- Following the success of its Hong Kong sale in May, Seoul Auction, Korea’s leading auction house, will again present an exceptional array of Western and Asian art in the Modern & Contemporary Art sale to be held on 7 October, 2009 at 5 pm at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.
The sale will showcase 93 works with an estimated total value of HK$90 million (US$12 million) by leading Western and Asian artists, and emerging artists from Korea, Japan, China, India and Indonesia, reflecting the dynamic vibrancy of contemporary Asian art.
Mr. Jun Lee, CEO, Seoul Auction, commented: “In July 2009, we proudly opened a larger Hong Kong office in Alexandra House. For our October 2009 sale of Modern & Contemporary art we are holding preview exhibitions in Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong and have also added Shanghai as another important city in which to hold a pre-sale exhibition. Such new initiatives demonstrate that we have confidence in the market and are expanding our business in Asia. We are fully committed to establishing Hong Kong as a truly international art hub and serving our clients throughout the Asian region.”
Ms. Misung Shim, Managing Director, Seoul Auction Hong Kong Ltd, said, “Since Seoul Auction became the first auction house to offer Western masterpieces in Hong Kong in its debut sale in October 2008, interest and awareness in Western contemporary art has grown significantly in Hong Kong and among collectors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and Southeast Asia. In our May sale this year, Tranquility from Damien Hirst’s Butterfly Series sold for HK$13.37 million (US$1.71 million) and became the most expensive work by Damien Hirst ever sold at auction in Asia. In our October sale, Seoul Auction will again present a carefully curated selection of works by Western masters including Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Cy Twombly and Josef Albers that have never before been offered at auction in Asia, as well as exceptional works by Asian artists such as Sanyu and Yayoi Kusama. ”
The star lot in the sale is a spectacular monumental work, The Importance of Elsewhere –The Kingdom of Heaven, by the famous artist Damien Hirst (b. 1965) from his highly acclaimed “Butterfly” series (Estimate on Request, expected to fetch over HK$18 million/ US$2.3 million). Hirst’s butterfly paintings started when he bred butterflies in a box in his studio and put them live on the canvas together with brightly colored paint. The butterfly has been used as a symbol of eternity and resurrection in both Western and Oriental cultures and religions. Hirst uses the butterfly to present his ideas of life and death, a key theme in his oeuvre. Since 2002, he has made butterfly works resembling the stained glass windows of Gothic cathedrals which brought beautified light inside the church. Hirst adopts such religious symbols to express a longing for eternal life.
This beautiful ‘window’ with its pointed arch is an exceptional example. The work, with thousands of vivid blue, yellow and green butterflies on a dark blue background, demonstrates Hirst’s awe before God in mathematical, geometric form, and refers to his own intricate, spiritual world and his feelings about life and death. In a contemporary work, Hirst reproduces the techniques of a medieval craftsman, who intended to represent the world of God by transforming light into color. Appropriating the symbolism of the butterfly, and religious motifs as well, he creates a state of immortality. The work reflects his belief that neither religion nor science, but only art is eternal. Through the butterflies’ fragility and vulnerability, Hirst creates an absolute moment when we face life and death.
Untitled by Anish Kapoor (b.1954) is another important piece in the sale (Estimate: HK$4,400,000 – 5,700,000/US$560,000-730,000). Kapoor, who was born in India, is one of Great Britain's leading sculptors, having lived in London since studying there in the 1970s. This is the first time a work by Kapoor has been offered in the Asian auction market.
With his surfaces of impeccably polished stainless steel, Kapoor explores the relationship between the form and the void; the temporary and the permanent; the tension between the material and the ethereal. The concave surface both contains and reflects the spiritual and the mundane. While absorbing all worldly objects in its glossy surface, it also reflects a distorted self back to the viewer, forcing him to delve into the realm of his inner self, fusing his world with that of the object itself.
(Untitled) Roma by Cy Twombly (b. 1928) is an excellent example of the artist’s work (Estimate on Request). When Cy Twombly first moved to Rome in 1957, little did he suspect he would stay there and it would become his ongoing source of inspiration for the next 40 years. At a time when most American artists of his generation were turning to contemporary popular culture for inspiration, Twombly immersed himself in the most traditional sources of Western art: Greek and Roman antiquity. In Rome, he also developed a highly personal, cryptic style of poetic “handwriting” that was permeated with the grandeur and decadence of the Mediterranean world.
A further highlight is Homage to the Square by Josef Albers (1888 – 1976) (Estimate: HK$630,000 –830,000/ US$81,000 – 110,000). Josef Albers is credited with one of the most significant achievements in 20th century art. His Homage to the Square series, which he began in 1950, generated a profound yet simple aesthetic, through repeated squares and combinations of colors. Starting from a square at the centre of a canvas, Albers demonstrates simple yet intense relationships between geometric form and color. His work creates magic visual effects by applying color in three phases, provoking an optical illusion where what is seen recedes and proceeds.
Other notable lots in the Western section include Moon Explorer (from Toy Series) by Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) (Estimate: HK$700,000 – 800,000/ US$90,000 – 100,000); Malin, Schoolgirl by Julian Opie (b. 1958) (Estimate: HK$380,000 – 440,000/US$49,000 – 57,000); and Balloon Dog – Red, Balloon Dog – Blue by Jeff Koons (b. 1955) (Estimate: HK$45,000 – 50,000/ US$5,800 – 6,500).
Leading the Chinese section is Flowers in a White Vase by the master Sanyu (Chang Yu, 1901 – 1966) painted in the 1930s (Estimate: HK$11,000,000 – 16,000,000 / US$1,500,000 – 2,000,000). Sanyu dedicated his life to capturing infinite ideals in his paintings. Residing in Paris, he sought to combine traditional Chinese painting with Western modern art, seamlessly blending the bold spontaneity of calligraphic brush strokes, the negative white space of ink wash painting with the aesthetics of Western art. Far away from his native land, Sanyu expressed his homesickness through flowers. This beautiful painting, with its use of soft powder white, and the pink flowers and green leaves in strong juxtaposition, is full of longing for his hometown in Sichuan. By pouring his feelings of solitude and melancholy into the imagery of flowers, Sanyu imbued his work with an intoxicating and poetic lyricism.
Also on offer is a bronze sculpture from Ju Ming’s celebrated Taichi Series (Estimate: HK$1,500,000 – 2,000,000/US$190,000 – 260,000). The Taiwanese artist Ju Ming (b. 1938) is perhaps Asia’s most pre-eminent sculptor, having forged a distinctive signature style that is recognized throughout the art world. The bronze figures that make up the Taichi Series are full of movement and energy, communicating not just the physical but also the spiritual aspect of the ancient practice of taichi. Ju Ming has repeatedly focused on the relationship between man and nature. Taichi stresses effortless action and interior motion, focusing on ideology rather than form. For Ju Ming, the art of sculpting is also akin to taichi. In his powerful yet graceful sculptures Ju Ming perfectly implements the Chinese philosophy of man and nature becoming a harmonious whole.
The centerpiece in the Korean section is From Line by Lee Ufan (b. 1936) (Estimate: HK$10,000,000 – 12,000,000/ US$1,300,000 – 1,540,000.) Lee Ufan is an eminent Korean-born Japanese minimalist painter and sculptor who was the leader of the Japanese material school ‘Mono-Ha’ in the late 1960s. He has acted as a mediator between the East and West through his theories on art that embrace Western thought and logic and interpret them through Eastern ideas and sensibilities. His works in the From Line series are perhaps the most highly regarded in his oeuvre, as they express his artistic theory through a focus on existence, extinction and continuous formation.
In From Line the artist repeats lines until the brush seemingly runs out of pigment. In addition to showing the artist’s process of painting, this also introduces a sense of time, from the moment when the fully loaded brush touches the canvas until he comes to the end of each stroke. Lee UFan’s paintings thus address issues of form, space and time.
Water-drops by Kim Tschang Yeul (b. 1929) is an outstanding work by the Korean modern master (Estimate: HK$410,000 – 470,000 / US$53,000 – 60,000). For some 40 years, Kim Tschang Yeul has used the theme of water drops in his oil paintings on various media including canvas, newspaper, sand and wood. As the media change, the water drops change their form and expression, to convey a variety of feelings. Kim’s water drops, transparent like beads, or close to death, move between existence and absence, blurring the gap between reality and fiction. When his water drops discolor naturally with time, viewers can relish the mysticism.
Other highlights in the Korean section included Aggregation 96-B8 by Chun Kwang Young (b. 1944) (Estimate: HK$630,000 – 950,000/ US$81,000 – 121,000), Robot (Globe) by Paik NamJune (1932 – 2006) (Estimate: HK$340,000 – 400,000/ US$44,000 – 52,000) and Audrey Heyburn by Kim Dong Yoo (b. 1965) (Estimate: 570,000 – 760,000/ U$73,000 – 97,000).
Taking center stage in the Japanese section is Pumpkin Chess Set by Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) (Estimate: HK$950,000 – 1,300,000/ US$120,000 – 170,000). Yayoi Kusama has become a legend in Japanese contemporary art. Since childhood she has experienced hallucinations and sees everything as if covered by fields of polka dots, or “infinity nets”. Both in her paintings, sculptures and installations, she covers her work with these dots and sees them as cells, particles and messages from the universe.
Pumpkin Chess Set was created for The Art of Chess project, initiated by RS&A Gallery, London in 2003. Leading artists from around the world, including Damien Hirst , Maurizio Cattelan and Barbara Kruger were invited to rethink and reform the traditional game of chess. The resulting artworks, each produced in a limited edition of seven, were exhibited in London, New York and Moscow. Kusama’s innovative contribution consists of a chess set with hand-painted porcelain pieces and a white and yellow chessboard covered in red and black spots. The set is enclosed in a white leather display case in the shape of Kusama’s signature pumpkin, of course covered in red dots, with two white cushions for the players. Also of note are A Girl by Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959) (Estimate: HK$600,000 – 700,000/ US$77,000 – 90,000) and Freckles by Hiroyuki Matsuura (b. 1964) (Estimate: HK$260,000 – 320,000/ US$34,000 – 42,000).
A superb work Idol Thief by Subodh Gupta (b. 1964) executed in 2006 is a further highlight (Estimate: HK$4,000,000 – 5,000,000/ US$520,000 – 650,000). Subodh Gupta’s self declaration as an “Idol Thief” relates to one of the central themes of his work, its concentration on objects as a metaphor for a modern India in a state of cultural transition. From bicycles, cows and cow dung, to luggage items prized by migrant workers and his signature motif of stainless steel cooking utensils, Gupta’s work draws on familiar objects from daily Indian life to explore and expose anxieties about the rapid pace of change taking place in his homeland.
Idol Thief is part of a series of paintings featuring kitchen utensils that Gupta made in 2006. Painted in a hyper-realistic style, it echoes the sumptuous sense of luxury often evoked by Jeff Koons. In this work, however, the depiction of steel pots and pans is blurred in such a way as to conjure the sense of a dreamlike vision. Not only the reality of the image, but also the reality of what these familiar domestic items represent – social aspiration, the daily cultural rituals of Indian life – is also thrown into question.
Anish Kapoor (born 1954), Untitled. Stainless steel, 2007, 140 x 140 x 30.5 cm. (55.1 x 55.1 x 12 in) Estimate: HK$4,400,000~5,700,000/ US$ 560,000~730,000