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Kazuo Shiraga
KOUJOUKA
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1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,565,000 GBP
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48
Kazuo Shiraga
KOUJOUKA
Estimate
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,565,000 GBP
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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Kazuo Shiraga
1924 - 2008
KOUJOUKA
signed; signed, titled and dated in Japanese on the reverse
oil on canvas 
129.5 by 192cm.; 51 by 75 5/8 in.
Executed in 1990.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Collection of the artist

Private Collection, Japan

Art U Gallery, Osaka

Private Collection, New York

Mnuchin Gallery, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Exhibiting an unrelenting dynamism and heroic drama, Koujouka from 1990 is an arresting paradigm of Kazuo Shiraga's radical ‘performance paintings’. A pivotal member of Japan’s most significant post-war art collective – The Gutai Art Association – Shiraga’s commitment to action painting as the dynamic synthesis of the artist and his work epitomised the group's quest for a radical new artistic expression. Contending the conventional artistic stance of the painter in front of an upright canvas, Shiraga placed his works flat on the floor. Fastening a rope above his paintings, he swung across the canvas in energetic gestural moves, using his feet to spread thick layers of paint across the surface. By actually stepping into the painting with this uninhibited action the artist fully immersed himself in the work. Shiraga explained: "I want to paint as though rushing around on a battlefield, exerting myself to collapse from exhaustion" (Kazuo Shiraga quoted in: Exh. Cat., New York, McCaffrey Fine Art, Kazuo Shiraga, 2009, p. 59). Attesting to the art historical significance of this visceral gestural language, Shiraga's works were celebrated in the 2013 landmark exhibition Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Guggenheim in New York and have since been recognised as one of the most important and innovative artistic expressions of the postwar era.

Heavy layers of viscous impasto denote traces of Shiraga's forceful movements and deliver an all-over effect that is at once arrestingly dramatic and beautifully lyrical. The compositional complexity of Koujouka continually fluctuates between rhythmic calligraphic sways and the disorganised chaos of unrestrained action painting. It is raw force and energy that drives form. The work radiates with chromatic potency as sumptuous strokes of vibrant crimson and glowing ochre frolic and intersect in a mesmerising dance. The artist is continually heralded for his powerful expressive gesture; however, the present work is also a major demonstration of Shiraga's mastery of colour. Indeed, the harmony of pure colour within the virile chaos of action painting positions this work in the highest order of Shiraga's oeuvre.

In the wake of the Second World War, the revolution in painting – propelled by a move towards Abstract Expressionism by pioneers such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning in the West – saw a similar development on the other side of the world. Seeking innovative outlets for a new artistic freedom, a group of young Japanese painters formed what came to be known as the Gutai group. Founded by the visionary artist Jirō Yoshihara in 1954, the group’s core members included Shimamoto Shōzō, Kanayama Akira, Tanaka Atsuko, Murakami Saburō, Motonaga Sadamasa and Shiraga. Influenced by the climate of postwar Japan, the group aimed to invigorate a society entrenched in ancient traditions with radical modern stimuli. Their revolutionary exploratory processes incorporated aspects of performance and interactive environments, anticipating later developments in conceptual and performance art.

With the support of critic Michel Tapié the work of the Gutai group was first introduced to the Western art scene at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1958. However, despite the limited recognition first given to the group in the late 50s and 60s, their unique visual language and artistic philosophy placed them amongst a peer group of exceptional avant-gardists. Shiraga's drastic act of discarding the paintbrush in favour of the human body aligned him with renowned Western artists like Yves Klein, who utilised naked women as ‘human paintbrushes’ in his Anthropometries of the late 1950s and 60s. Even the master of Abstract Expressionism, Jackson Pollock (who had created his first iconic action painting a few years prior to the formation of the Gutai group) showed a distinct interest in the expressive idiom of the radical Japanese artists, with a copy of the group’s manifesto being found amongst Pollock’s papers after his death in 1956.

With its frenzied poetic chaos and mesmerising vibrancy, Koujouka is an arresting vestige of the innovation that most defines Shiraga's achievement. His pursuit was the fluid union of material and creativity and his radical action paintings stand as exceptional milestones in the history of twentieth-century avant-garde art.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London