Lot 1154
  • 1154

NOBUO SEKINE | Phase of Nothingness - Cloth and Stone

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 HKD
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  • Nobuo Sekine
  • Phase of Nothingness - Cloth and Stone
  • cloth, stone, rope and wooden frame
  • overall: 242 by 110 by 15 cm.   95¼ by 43¼ by 6 in.canvas: 150 by 110 cm.   59 by 43¼ in.stone: 14 by 26 by 10 cm.  5½ by 10¼ by 3⅞ in.
signed in Kanji and English, and dated 1970 on the reverse


Galleria La Bertesca, Milan
Gallery Krebs, Bern
Aste Boetto, Genoa, 15 April 2014, Lot 147
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner


Gifu, Museum of Fine Arts; Hiroshima, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Kitakyushu, Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art; Saitama, Museum of Modern Art; Saint-Etienne, Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, Matter and Perception 1970: Mono-ha and the Search for Fundamentals, 1995, p. 51, no. 19, illustrated; p. 130, list of works


Nobuo Sekine, Ueda Makoto and Kindai Bijutsu Kenkyukai, Ed., Nobuo Sekine 1968-78, Tokyo 1978, p. 6, no. 61, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Even in the simplest structures, many different landscapes or thoughts can be expressed.

Nobuo Sekine 

Executed in 1970, Phase of Nothingness – Cloth and Stone is an early iteration of Nobuo Sekine’s pioneering practice that informed and catalysed the conceptual Mono-ha (“School of Things”) movement in the 1960s. Born in Saitama, Japan in 1942, Sekine was one of the key members of Mono-ha, a group of Tokyo-based artists who became prominent in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the early 1960s, Sekine studied at the Tama Art University in Tokyo under influential abstract sculptor Yoshishige Saito and surrealist and minimalist Jiro Takamatsu. In 1968, Sekine created Phase – Mother Earth in Kobe’s Suma Rikyu Park for the “First Open Air Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition ”. The outdoor installation, regarded as the major breakthrough not just in the artist’s career but in the wider Mono-ha movement, consisted of a 2.7-metre deep, 2.2-metre wide hole dug into the ground, with the excavated earth compacted into a cylinder of exactly the same dimensions, positioned some ways from the hole. Manifesting Sekine’s engagement with the concept of “phase ” in topology, a branch of mathematics concerned with how material properties of an object are preserved under continuous deformations, Phase – Mother Earth is considered the initial work of the Mono-ha movement, informing many artists including Lee Ufan and Kishio Suga. Two years later in 1970, Sekine was chosen to represent Japan at the Venice Biennale alongside Shusaku Arakawa. For the Biennale, Sekine contributed Phase of Nothingness, which consisted of a large marble stone placed precariously atop a tall square column of mirrored stainless steel. The work received widespread acclaim, leading to solo exhibitions in Tokyo and Europe, as well as numerous public art commissions throughout Japan.

Executed in 1970, the same year Sekine produced Phase of Nothingness for the 35th Venice Biennale, the present Phase of Nothingness – Cloth and Stone likewise utilizes a natural stone within its configuration. First, by utilizing raw and everyday materials, Sekine inaugurates a distinctively Asian art form by revitalizing Eastern philosophy in respect to its critique on Western traditions. Sekine created art with a profound admiration for nature, borrowing imagery from Japanese landscape and Zen gardens where natural rocks are an essential component, producing a rare fusion of Western mathematics and ancient Eastern philosophy. Second, Sekine’s art proposed that a work’s artistic properties were not determined by its artist or maker, but rather grounded within its relationship to space. In the present Phase of Nothingness – Cloth and Stone, the tension occurring from the moments of encounter between the cloth, the rope, and the suspended stone activates the surrounding space, emphasizing “phases” of temporary experience during the work’s installation, display, dismantling, and future re-creation. In his subtle manipulations of natural materials, Sekine reduces objects to their essential primary forms, and in so doing releases their infinite possibilities vis-a-vis human perception as well as their interaction with one another.