Lot 23
  • 23

On Kawara

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • On Kawara
  • December 6, 1967
  • titled and dated Dec.6,1967; signed and dated 1967 on the reverse
  • liquitex on canvas with newspaper clipping in artist's cardboard box
  • 25.5 by 33cm.
  • 10 by 13in.


Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

This work belongs to the Today series, no. 188, 1967 and is sold with a handmade cardboard box with a newspaper clipping (shown below) from The New York Times dated December 6,1967.

On Kawara's important December 6, 1967 is one of the earliest created paintings belonging to the artist's most iconic and celebrated body of work - the Today series. Named for their sole content being the date on which they were painted, the Today series has become synonymous with On Kawara's name.


As part of an ongoing project which Kawara has undertaken since January 4, 1966, the present work was executed within the first twenty-three months of this ambitious project that has grown to span over decades of the artist's career. These meticulously painted monochrome fields, and the numbers and letters contained within them, are declarations of existence that attest to Kawara's obsessions with repetition and the daily consumption of the finite time allotted to each of us in life. 


In contrast to the other works that form Kawara's broad conceptual oeuvre, the Today series takes the form of traditional painting.  Completing each canvas within the 24 hours allotted to the day on which it was begun, every Date painting follows the calendrical conventions and language of the place where he was at the time.  Often, as he has done in the present work, he also attaches a page from the newspaper of whichever city he was in - in this case from his adopted home of New York City - which is stored along with the painting in a cardboard box. The box confirms the object-hood of the painting in its own right, whilst the newspaper anchors it to an existing daily reality.  The newspaper section accentuates the dichotomy between art and everyday actuality; a gesture which develops the tradition which began with Braque and Picasso's introduction of newsprint into the fabric of papier collĂ©.  Kawara, however, instead of integrating newspaper into the work, deliberately keeps it separate - a further distinction between the different realities of art and non-art.  The newspaper grounds the Today series in the world of continual flux, acting as a temporal gauge of the events and images in the ongoing, daily reality.


Kawara is one of the key Conceptual artists and was one of the first to recognize the poetry of the idea as the basis for a radical new art form.  The Today series stand as some of the most important documents in the history of the Conceptual movement and provide a heartbeat to one of its most profound oeuvres.  At a time when the predominant visual interest was Pop art, Kawara, along with artists such as Bruce Nauman and Joseph Kosuth, developed an entirely new aesthetic based as much on the thought that lay behind the work as in the work itself.  In a world which was becoming ever more complex in its imagistic make up, these artists found beauty in the simplified coherence of the everyday.


The present work, begun and finished on December 6th, 1967 chronicles the daily world events with the front page of The New York Times exhibited in the interior of his cardboard box and also documents the passing of a specific day.  On Kawara's philosophically based work addresses this by turning abstract, temporal measurement into the concrete reality of art.