Lot 9
  • 9

Kazuo Shiraga

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 EUR
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  • Kazuo Shiraga
  • Takao
  • signed in Japanese and dated 1959.5; signed on the back
  • oil on canvas
  • 182 x 273 cm; 71 5/8 x 107 1/2 in.
  • Executed in May 1959.


Galleria d'Arte Braidense, Milan
Private collection, Milan


Kyoto, Kyoto Municipal Museum, 8th Gutaï Art Exhibition, 25 -30 August 1959 


Document Gutaï 1954-1972, edited by Ashiya City Museum of Art & History, Ashiya, 1993, pp.139-141, illustrated
Kazuo Shiraga, exhibition catalogue at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Kobe, 2001, p.99, illustrated
Kazuo Shiraga: Painting Born Out of Fighting, exhibition catalogue at Toyoshina, Azumino Municipal Museum of Art, Amagazaki Cultural Center, Yokosuka Museum of Art, 2009, no.313, illustrated in colour
Body and Matter, Kazuo Shiraga, Satoru Hishino, exhibition catalogue, Dominique Levy Gallery, New York, 2015, p.116, illustrated


The colours are fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration although the overall tonality is brighter in the original work. The red colour in the centre of the composition has more orange undertones in the original work. Additionally, the image does not accurately convey the richly nuanced surface especially on the burgundy in the lower right quadrant. Finally, the catalogue illustration does not accurately convey the thickness of the impastos. Please refer to the Contemporary Art department for a professional condition report.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Painted for the famous 8th Gutai exhibition organised in Kyoto in August 1959, Takao is an absolutely exceptional work, both by its impressive size and the date of its creation. Indeed,  Takao was one of the first paintings made by the artist after his meeting with Michel Tapié who convinced him to change his mode of expression, to abandon paper for the more noble and permanent medium of the canvas. It is important to avoid an ethnocentric vision of the world, and the belief that the actions taking place in the United States by the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s was at the time that only stone brought to the great edifice of the history of art. At the same period that Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning were revolutionizing the approach to painting in the West, a group of Japanese artists were developing a practice that was just as essential on the other wide of the world. Member of the most avant-garde and radical artistic association in the history of Japan, the "Gutaï Bijutsu-Kyokai", Kazuo Shiraga elaborated at the beginning of the 1950s a philosophy and a technique which made him not only one of the most eminent representatives of the group but also one of the Asian artists who founded a following. The conjunction of gu (instrument) and taï (body), praising the reconciliation between body and paintbrush, Gutaï itself came from Zerokaï, a movement established a few years earlier by Shiraga with the aim of creating an art free of all intention and convention.

By placing his works flat on the floor and using his feet to spread thick layers of paint in impressive tangled forms, Shiraga established a new relationship with the work. "I wanted to paint as though I was on a battlefield. Paint until exhaustion, until I collapsed" he said. This total engagement of the body and of the mind is particularly present in Takao. But the work is not only about violence, it is also about symbiosis, combining the most contemporary techniques of "happenings" and performance with the ancestral tradition of calligraphy.

Kazuo and Fujiko Shiraga in the artist's studio in 1960 © courtesy Amagasaki Cultural Center and Hisao Shiraga

The 8th Gutai Art exhibition, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 1959 Shiraga at center © the former members of the Gutai Art Association, courtesy Ashiya City Museum of Art and History