06 October 2020, London: Today, a curated selection of contemporary Japanese prints, multiples and photographs opened for bidding on Sothebys.com in a sale titled ‘From Japan with Love’. The first of its kind, the auction features works by Japan’s most internationally-acclaimed artists – from Yoshitomo Nara to Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama and other iconic printmakers – each artist synthesising Japanese and Western popular culture with their own signature aesthetic. The full selection of works will go on view at Sotheby’s London from 10-12 October [34-35 New Bond Street, W1S 2RT], while they are concurrently offered at auction online until 13 October.
We are super excited about this upcoming one-of-a-kind sale: From Japan with Love. It really is an auction like no other, celebrating the popularity and influence of Japanese style which continues to reach new heights. From the whimsical storytelling found in Anime & Manga prints to Kawaii – or more commonly known as ‘the culture of cuteness’ – and the kaleidoscopic Neo-Pop prints, the sale showcases the breadth of contemporary Japanese artistic production. For the first ever time at Sotheby’s, there’s also an offering of Japanese Provoke/Photobooks, which help piece together an otherwise invisible history that has played out in tandem with photography as a medium.
Comprising 73 lots in total, ‘From Japan with Love’ is divided into five themes: ‘Neo-Pop’, ‘Kawaii’, ‘Anime & Manga’, ‘Homage to Shunga’ and ‘Provoke/Photobooks’. Prints by Takashi Murakami, often coined Japan’s Warhol, punctuate the ‘Neo-Pop’, ‘Kawaii’ and ‘Anime & Manga’ collections, and just like the Pop artist, his work embraces and encourages contradictions, thriving on disruptions of logic. The cultural paradoxes within Murakami’s oeuvre trace back to the US occupation in Japan after World War II when the merging of Eastern and Western culture dramatically changed the country and gave rise to consumer products and phenomena that celebrated the latter’s influence. Encapsulating anime eyes, jagged teeth, camouflage patterns, technicolour flowerballs, psychedelic mushrooms and candy colour landscapes, Murakami’s works can also be viewed as comments on the peculiarities of our global contemporary art world.
Alongside Murakami, the sale features pieces by KAWS and Yoshitomo Nara, all of which embody Japan’s Kawaii or “cute” culture (think Hello Kitty and Pokémon). Entering into the global artworld lexicon in the early 2000s, Kawaii has a wide semantic range from being adorable and innocent to pitiable and pathetic. Cosmic Girl: Open/Eyes Closed by Nara is the ultimate embodiments of Kawaii: round face, large eyes and childlike expression juxtaposed with adult emotions (est. £4,000-6,000). Daniel Arsham’s blue crystalised pikachu (est. £3,000-5,000) similarly explores the surreal and the cartoonish, paying homage to the world’s most endearing “pocket monsters” from the comic Pokémon.
In a striking contrast, ‘From Japan with Love’, also includes a selection of provocative, stark and visceral photographs from the country’s most celebrated contemporary photographers: Nobuyoshi Araki, Rinko Kawauchi and Daido Moriyama, alongside highly coveted and rare Photobooks. Hailing from the 1960s and 70s, Japanese photographers employed photobooks and propaganda tools, prioritising the strength of images over words. Included here is Eikoe Hosoe’s Killed by Roses, which is widely perceived as the ultimate avant-garde publication (est. £1,000-1,500) It showcases the iconic Japanese high-contrasted, blurry and grainy images across full bleed spreads. Today’s auction marks the first time Sotheby’s has offered works of this genre.
‘From Japan with Love’ follows the recent white-glove Banksy Prints auction, which tripled its pre-sale high estimate to realise £2.1 million, with over half the buyers transacting with Sotheby’s for the first time.
Keen to discover more? Join Sotheby’s specialist Jennifer Strotz for a virtual tour of the From Japan with Love exhibition on Monday 12 October at 12.30pm BST, hosted in partnership with The Japan Society. Free to join but booking is essential. Reserve your place here.
For press enquiries, please contact: Alicia.Stockley@Sothebys.com
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* Estimates do not include buyer's premium or overhead premium. Prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer's premium and overhead premium and are net of any fees paid to the purchaser where the purchaser provided an irrevocable bid.
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