Lot 39
  • 39

On Kawara

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
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  • On Kawara
  • A Corner Piece: AUG. 1, 2005. AUG. 2, 2005. AUG. 3, 2005. SEPT. 1, 2005. SEPT. 2, 2005. SEPT. 3, 2005
  • each: signed on the reverse; titled, dated and numbered on a label affixed to the stretcher
  • liquitex on canvas with newspaper clipping in artist's cardboard box, in six parts
  • each: 8 x 10 1/2 in. 20.3 x 26.7 cm.
  • Executed in 2005.


Micheline Szwajcer, Brussels
Private Collection, Belgium
Leo Koenig, Inc. New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, The Art of Deceleration: Motion and Rest in Modern Art from Caspar David Friedrich to Ai WeiweiNovember 2011 - April 2012, p. 202, illustrated in color (detail)
New York, Leo Koenig, Inc., 3 & 6, April - May 2013


This work is in excellent condition. The tape at two corners of the box that stores AUG. 2, 2005 is torn. On the lower left corner of SEPT. 2, 2005, there is a minute white speck adhered to the surface, located 2" up from the bottom edge and ¼" in from the left edge. Under ultraviolet light, there are no aparent restorations. The canvases are unframed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Adopting an intense blue acrylic as monochromatic ground, on January 4, 1966, On Kawara starkly emblazoned the date in white across the center of a canvas. This painting inaugurated his Today series, a group of works that have become instantly recognizable as objects of great historical significance. Named solely for the date on which they were painted, the paintings that constitute the Today series and its conceptual premise have become synonymous with On Kawara’s name.

Echoing the rare cerulean hue from the artist’s original 1966 painting, the present work is comprised of six canvases. Layers of blue contrasted with bright white text lend to the chromatic depth that brilliantly enhances each component and the sequential six dates further encapsulate us in the phenomenon of time as it relates to the realm of calendric regularity.

Although the artist began working on the series almost five decades ago, the method of their creation has remained remarkably consistent. Kawara applies four coats of paint to the canvas ground, which can range in size and color. The edges of the text are then painstakingly drawn in by means of a ruler and filled in with layers of white acrylic. The date is written in the manner of which country Kawara happens to be in on that particular day, hence the series functions as a form of personal diary and travelogue for the artist. Should the painting be unfinished by midnight it is destroyed rather than altering the pure truth of the date itself.

Often, as he has done for each component of the present work, the artist attaches a page from the newspaper of the city in which he was on a given date. The clipping is stored along with the painting in a cardboard box. Despite the fact that the dates within A Corner Piece are fragmented into two separate months, three days consecutively in August paired with three days consecutively in September, all six canvases are accompanied by newspaper clippings from New York City newspapers indicating that Kawara was in the same place when he painted each canvas and accentuating the dichotomy between art and everyday actuality. 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.

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, thus standing as an exceptional emblem of calm and continuity amidst the turmoil of an ever-changing world.