Nine Buzz-Worthy Artworks to Put on Your Radar This Month

Nine Buzz-Worthy Artworks to Put on Your Radar This Month

As we kick off the first Contemporary Discoveries in Asia this year, Florence Ho, Sotheby’s Head of Day and Online Sales, handpicks the must-have artworks for your collection.
As we kick off the first Contemporary Discoveries in Asia this year, Florence Ho, Sotheby’s Head of Day and Online Sales, handpicks the must-have artworks for your collection.

T his is our first Contemporary Discoveries (21-28 February) sale of the year in Asia, and it has been infiltrated by the surreal. Simultaneously amplifying yet undermining the world around us, surrealism is a catalyst for new perspectives. Artworks with surrealist flair abound, including NINE TENTHS 4 (2020) by LA-based Kevin Christy – where dagger-like arctic-blue nails bar our progress – and In Every Fiction a Likeness (2022) by German-born Jeanine Brito – where undulating waves of cascading hair obscure or undermine the notion of memory.

Below are nine artworks we recommend for any contemporary art collection.

Invader, B52’S”, 2010 | Estimate: 650,000 – 950,000 HKD

Anonymous French street artist Invader describes his installations as 99% illegal. Reassuringly, B 52’S” (2010) holds the attention, yet breaks no laws. Known globally for his cheerily tiled riffs on Space Invaders and Pac-Man, Invader’s art has become not just accepted, but loved, all over the world. He is no stranger to Hong Kong, having “invaded” the city on seven separate occasions, or, as the artist terms it, in seven waves, over the years. In B 52’S”, blue, orange and yellow Rubik cubes jovially jostle for position in a nonchalant group portrait. Rubik cubes are an apt platform for those heady dreams of the 1980s, redolent with synthesiser sound and neon vim. However, there is no better time than now to truly appreciate Invader’s four decade-long career. The Invader Space Station on the Rue Béranger in Paris opens this month, unveiling a complete transformation of the former offices of the Libération newspaper for a nine-floor, 3,500 square-metre retrospective of Invader’s photographs, videos, installations and sculptures.


JR, Inside Out, oeil froissé encadré 16, 2014 | Estimate: 80,000 – 150,000 HKD

French artist JR has a mission to document individuals who might not otherwise feature in museums. He came to prominence in Paris between 2004 and 2006 when his billboard-sized portraits of young people from Parisian housing estates became Portraits of a Generation. A twin engine of street artist and photographer, he set up Inside Out Project in 2010, which aims to place art in the hands of local communities. JR’s Inside Out, Oeil Froissé Encadré 16 (2014) centres on the eye, a recurring motif in surrealist art. From the eye-slicing scene in Louis Buñuel’s landmark film Un Chien Andalou (1929) – screenplay co-written by Salvador Dali – to René Magritte’s painting The False Mirror (also 1929), the eye is a window into the human spirit and onto the world. Surrealist photographer Man Ray once described The False Mirror as a painting that “sees as much as it itself is seen.” In JR’s ink on paper work, the eye takes its rightful place at the threshold between the world we know and recognise, and another which we don’t.

Donald Baechler, Pink Cone, 2010 | Estimate: 120,000 – 220,000 HKD

New York Neo-Expressionist artist Donald Baechler is the soundtrack to the 1980s, an exuberant symphony of ice cream cones, human faces, flowers and beach balls. In Pink Cone (2010), flamingo-hued ice cream melts inexorably down a cone like a floppy fringe over the eyes. The delicious treat leaps into the spotlight, hovering over a collage of paper – what the artist sometimes referred to as “white noise”. Baechler died in 2022, having cited diverse influences including Cy Twombly, Giotto, and Robert Rauschenberg.

Koak, How to Forget, 2018 | Estimate: 260,000 – 550,000 HKD

Michigan-born, San Francisco-based artist Koak marks lines sparingly to spawn human figures of passion and agency. How to Forget (2018) is 188cm long, a vertically thrusting monochrome blend of scale and simplicity. Forgetting may be a matter of moving onwards, forwards and upwards, with the accent on momentum, movement and endurance rather than on any destination. The straight lines yield inexorably to curves and echo her sculptural language; How to Forget offers a glimpse of the future, or a prototype for a new humanity.

Tomokazu Matsuyama, Respect Respirations 2019 | Estimate: 300,000 – 500,000 HKD

1976-born Tomokazu Matsuyama was born in the Year of the Dragon in the Japanese zodiac. Now based in Brooklyn, he exhibits globally, and his most recent Asian exhibition just ended at Shanghai’s Powerlong Museum. In Respect Respirations (2019), a surreal garden is in full hallucinatory bloom, with the hero encircled in a halo of roses, branches and birdlife. Matsuyama seamlessly combines an aura of a saga or quest in fantasy and legend, with the vibrant, trippy solace of an alternate reality. His dreamlike scene is a restless palette in which each colour and every shape exudes its own vivacity, agitating for our attention. The artist is currently holding his first large-scale solo exhibition in Japan at Hirosaki Renga Soko Museum, titled "MATSUYAMA Tomokazu: Fictional Landscape", which will conclude on 17 March, 2024.

Joel Mesler, Untitled (The Buck Stops Here), 2010 | Estimate: 260,000 – 450,000 HKD

Joel Mesler ran his own gallery in New York for many years, and is a long-time friend of many artists whose early promise he recognised and promoted, including Rashid Johnson. Mesler’s art is partly inspired by the vicissitudes of fortune, and of episodes in his life growing up in turbulent family circumstances. The foliage of Untitled (The Buck Stops Here) (2020) is inspired by the Beverly Hills Hotel wallpaper which was the backdrop to his childhood. The painting contains a message popularised by President Harry S. Truman, emphasising individual accountability. The acceptance of responsibility is gently satirised by the three disembodied, red-jacketed fellows pointing at the slogan. Just who is in charge these days?

Lynne Drexler, Waverly Flowers, 1985 | Estimate: 220,000 – 350,000 HKD

Lynne Mapp Drexler’s work is redolent of the late 1950s abstract expressionist movement of which she was an exponent. Her tessellated, energising tablets of colour fizz with energy. Her painting practice echoes George Seurat’s pointillism, while morphing the French impressionist dots into New York grids and squares. Fans of 1980s video gaming who look closely might perceive an early forerunner of pixellation, or even a painterly precursor to Invader. In Waverly Flowers (1985) a delicate mauve background drizzles upon an ochre-hued bouquet beneath. The eye is drawn to the lapis-coloured vase, supporting the tenderly blurred, flattened vista. The painting’s azure anchor calls to art history where for centuries blue was the most exquisite, most expensive colour, imported from Afghanistan to Europe through Venice and treasured in paintings. White Cube announced in November 2023 that it will be representing The Lynne Drexler Archive globally outside of the US. Solo exhibitions are being planned for autumn 2024 in London and Hong Kong.

Cui Jie, Western City Gate, 2017 | Estimate: 80,000 – 120,000 HKD

Shanghai-based Cui Jie derives inspiration from the built topography of the urban environment. Her paintings in acrylic resemble early blueprints for cities of the future. Buildings are imbued with the gritty zest of reality, yet invested with the joys and aspirations of fantasy, abetted by additional stylings from the jet age. On occasion, she miniaturises an architectural marvel. Western City Gate (2017) is a 3D print photopolymer resin print of acrylic paintings she has made of the same tower block: an iconic 36-storey brutalist landmark in Belgrade, Serbia. In the 48cm-high sculpture, the sombre, tawny concrete and glassy lemon reflections are flushed out, presenting a blank, clean slate for new life to begin.

Gioele Amaro, Tired Water Lilies, 2021 | Esimate: 120,000 – 220,000 HKD

Gioele Amaro is an artist who specialises in synthesis: the subtle merging of the digital and the traditional, of photography and painting. His colours and materials transcend the sum of their parts, elevating themselves into a realm where canvas seems to be alchemised into metal. Fittingly for an artist of such versatility, Amaro has collaborated with the world of fashion, specifically Italian luxury fashion house Valentino. Born in the Calabria region in the south of Italy, Amaro studied architecture at university and worked with Pritzker prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel. His approach to painting is one of industrial ingenuity and artistic artifice, creating a beautiful deception. Tired Water Lilies (2021) was the cover work for the artist’s “Shade and Shadow” show at the 1905 Art Space in Shenyang, China in 2022. The painting is a hazy aquatic meander below the surface of the water, a leisurely dive to retrieve the baton of Claude Monet.

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