Auction | China Guardian (HK) Auctions Co., Ltd.
2023 Spring Auctions > Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Takashi Murakami (b.1962)
Zen Ensō: Mugen(Painted in 2016)

Acrylic and gold leaf on canvas

180 × 180 cm. 70 7/8 × 70 7/8 in.

Signed and titled in English, dated on the reverse
Scai the Bathhouse, Tokyo
Acquired directly by present private Japanese collector from the above

Note: A label of Tokyo Scai the Bathhouse Galley is affixed on the reverse

Harmony of Ensō, Togetherness of Everything
Takashi Murakami's Work of Enlightenment: Zen Ensō: Mugen

“The ensō is a true homage to Japanese tradition, a return to a more unfettered minimalist practice —— the result of a complex artistic and spiritual path.”
——Emmanuel Perrotin, the founder of Perrotin Gallery

Takashi Murakami has been hailed as “the greatest artist of the Heisei Era”. Born in 1962, he was fascinated by the anime masters such as Osamu Tezuka. After graduating from the Tokyo University of Arts, Murakami travelled to New York for further adventure, during which time he witnessed the prosperity of the Pop Art Movement at that time. In 2000, he proposed the concept of “superflat”, bringing Japanese comics and otaku culture into pure artistic expression, eradicating the hierarchical division in art. Through the understandable and amiable lovely images and the infinite repetition in his works, Murakami delivered his observation and criticism of the contemporary world, which has become a powerful and unshakable branch in contemporary art history. His works have been collected by the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, the Palace of Versailles, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and other institutions.

The Intersection and Innovation of Zen Aesthetics

While Murakami's works seem to counter the traditions, he is familiar with Japanese traditional art as he studied Japanese painting at the university. Since 2009, he has collaborated with art historian Koreo Tsuji to produce the series Dragon in Clouds to involve ancient Japanese art. Under the influence of the 311 Japanese earthquake in 2011, the economic bubble and his father's death, he dedicated himself to exploring Zen and Buddhism, contributing to a critical transformation of his creation. Created in 2016, Zen Ensō: Mugen is one of the representatives in this period.

Born Equal, Create the Brilliance of Life

Takashi Murakami's artistic career is closely related to “skeletons”. His first personal collection piece is German artist Horst Janssen's Self-Portrait with Skeleton, in which Janssen connected his face with skulls to show the entanglement between life and death. In 2013 when Murakami held his first solo exhibition titled Flowers & Skulls at Central Police Station in Hong Kong, he also presented abundant works simultaneously containing bright flowers signifying life and skulls suggesting death. Since then, “skeletons” has become essential to his creation.

Against the dazzling golden background of Zen Ensō: Mugen, he adopted the imprinting technique to add countless skeletons, showing a relief texture. The skeletons collectively metaphorize various emotions and imply the naked souls deprived of skin colours, genders, facial features, or nationalities. Simultaneously, the shiny golden background may remind the audience of the traditional Japanese gold screen, adding another layer of grandness and a sense of atmosphere to work. Under the splendour of golden colours symbolizing the glory of life, death follows like a shadow.

Infinite Harmony of Ensō

“Ensō” originates from Zen Buddhism, suggesting the monks with flywhisks or sticks drawing circles in the air to represent the truth, or the pure white circle in Zen Buddhism, symbolizing the Buddha's wise eye. The work is the artist's tribute to Zen aesthetics. He replaces the traditional ink with the white acrylic that creates a perfect circle against the golden background, signifying the philosophies of infinity and containing everything because of emptiness. The artist also deliberately left a half-vacuous and half-concrete gap at the end of the spray circle to state that accepting the imperfectness in life makes it complete. The profundity of the work exceeds the artist's previously lovely and amiable representations and becomes an important example of his next stage.

Price estimate:
HKD: 800,000 - 1,200,000
USD: 101,900 - 152,900

Auction Result:
HKD: 3,360,000



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