Lot 1065
  • 1065


650,000 - 950,000 HKD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • But Mochtar
  • Family
  • Copper
  • 92.5 by 46.5 by 37.5 cm; 36 1/4  by 18 1/4  by 14 3/4  in. 


Acquired directly from the estate of the artist
Private Asian Collection


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. Any inconsistencies are inherent to the artist's working method and the nature of the medium.
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

As one of Indonesia’s leading artists in abstraction and sculpture, But Mochtar was an artist whose multifarious oeuvre embraced the ideologies of modern art, as well as the intricate facets of human ambition and emotion. Born in 1930 in Bandung, Indonesia, Mochtar spent his formative years studying at the Bandung Institute of Technology, where his fascination with abstract expressionist art blossomed under the guidance of Dutch art teacher, Ries Mulder. At the same time when artists such as Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Wilem de Kooning and Mark Rothko stood at the front of abstract expressionism in America, Mochtar similarly dedicated his career to the pursuit of examining and re-interpreting the principles of abstraction through the lens of his own rich cultural milieu, and began developing alternative methods of visual representation that would soon sit at the core of his works. In 1960, Mochtar spent a year at the revered Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, then proceeded to become a research fellow at MIT. It was through his sojourns abroad that Mochtar further cultivated his understanding of Western styles of modern aesthetics, which fueled within him a passionate dedication towards the expression of form and representation in sculpture. Poignant and deeply personal, the present lot stands as an eloquent manifestation of Mochtar’s technical dexterity, as he revitalizes notions of geometry, perspective and cubism to portray the aesthetics of human form and its existence.
Freely fusing, yet visually understated, this sculpture is a rare and meaningful piece that stands out amongst Mochtar’s vast body of work. Embodying his most visited and iconic theme, family, Mochtar depicts a family of three, dynamically interlocked as they overlap against one another. Since Mochtar and his wife struggled for a long time before conceiving their child, the construct of a family as a unit has always had a dominating presence in his opus. This sculpture serves as a deeply moving and emotionally powerful piece on the eternal relationships that family creates, as Mochtar celebrates the continuation of life, sharing with us the idea that everything in time is inevitably connected through the frameworks of human existence. Mochtar crafts an articulate exercise on form, as he draws from the concept of cubist deformation, reducing the physical complexities of his figures into singular organic forms, effectively molding their features to create smooth, angular silhouettes. Here, we see Mochtar’s varied exposure to the aesthetics of modern art movements in the West: the craggy textures of Alberto Giacometti’s shapes, the abstracted compositions of Henry Moore’s monuments and the versatility of Richard Serra’s materials. Mochtar embraces this striking confluence of the non-representational and representational, and plays with the viewers’ perspective, as each of the figures stand independently when looked at from the front, and only appear to be interlinked when perceived from the side.

The permanence of family is unveiled, as Mochtar expresses his everlasting love and loyalty towards his wife and child and commemorates the beauty of humanistic values. The framework of Mochtar’s sculpture reveals both a lightness and strength, as the hollowed figures delineate a rigid geometry that is reminiscent of the ideologies of cubist simplification and abstraction. Vertically orientated, the prominent lines carve out the perimeters of each figure, whose features are further enhanced through the elemental properties of the medium. Mochtar pays particular attention to the tactility and materiality of his sculptures as he navigates alternative methods of visual representation - weathered, eroded and pared down to its most elemental propoments, the rough brittleness of the sculpture is dynamically countered by its inherent solid form, which imbues a sense of enduring strength and permanence to the work. Visually and structurally connected, Mochtar prompts us to contemplate the strong emotional ties that family undoubtedly brings, as the figures’ stances depend on the intrinsic interlinks that they have with each other. The profound understanding that Mochtar has for the architectonic and geometrical aesthetics in sculpture is illuminated in this present lot, as he experiments with the existing methodologies of his era in order to bring about a new form of expression to Indonesia’s modern art movement. Remembered as a pioneer for sculpture as an art form in Southeast Asia, Mochtar’s opus is one that goes beyond the boundaries of cubism and abstraction, as he permeates his works with an unparalleled emotive language and visual fluency.

“The tendency to arrange lines, forms, patterns and colours became one of the main strategies in the creative process of painters in the abstract style… in which objects are no longer easily recognizable. [Mochtar’s] experiences, ideas and emotions were turned into lines, shapes, planes and colors, without clear and exact references to any social form or condition.”[i]

[i] Enin Supriyanto, The Journey of Indonesian Painting: The Bentara Budaya Collection, Bentara Budaya, 2008, p. 18-19