• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12245

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Auction

    7 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 203

    TETSUMI KUDO (B. 1935)

    Souvenir-La Mue (Memory-Pupal Skin)

    Price Realised  


    TETSUMI KUDO (B. 1935)
    Souvenir-La Mue (Memory-Pupal Skin)
    signed ‘Tetsumi KUDO’ (under the cage)
    acrylic on plastic flowers and mixed media in painted cage
    13 ¾ x 15 1/3 x 9 7/8in. (34.9 x 39 x 25.1cm.)
    Executed in 1970

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    “In Kudo’s sculptures and assemblages [...] there was a prevailing obsession with the theme of impotence linked to nuclear attack, a penchant for grotesque renderings of the body, cut into pieces or dissolving into puddles of goo, and a science-fictional dystopian picturing of the body as part machine… Kudo’s works looked less like sculpture than like movie props from lurid science fiction films [...] I admired them greatly.”
    —MIKE KELLEY, ‘Cultivation by Radioactivity’, Tetsumi Kudo: Garden of Metamorphosis, Walker Art Center, 2008

    With its assorted anthropomorphic forms encased by a verdant green birdcage, Tetsumi Kudo’s Souvenir – La Mue (1970) is a lurid exploration into the base conditions of humanity. Within the multimedia sculpture, a microscopic biosphere of moulded body parts erupts from a terrestrial wasteland. Flowers share the space with grotesque fossilized remains and the soil radiates with the chromatic gleam of fluorescent spray paint. Kudo’s foreboding psychological landscape transcends formal classifications, exhibiting a language and symbolism unique to the artist’s oeuvre. The work presents a multitude of dichotomies that range from the fusion of organic and inorganic elements to the utopian idealization of a post-nuclear ecology, revealing Kudo’s trademark proto-post-humanist vision of the world. While Kudo’s unique visual vocabulary clearly expresses his disillusionment with humanity, touching on prescient themes such as pollution and deformation, the work is also a reflection on metamorphosis. Kudo explains, ‘Pollution of nature! Decomposition of humanity (humanism)! The end of the world! These exclamations are fashionable nowadays but this situation is neither absolutely catastrophic nor fashionable. This is the ineluctable process of reforming ourselves. Behind this situation there is a great possibility of revolution for us personally’ (T. Kudo, quoted in F. Gavin, ‘Tetsumi Kudo’s X-rated cages that shocked the art world’ http:/www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/19731/1/tetsumi-kudos-x-rated-cages-that-shocked-the-art-world [accessed 9 September 2016]). His aesthetic syntax is derived from his dual experiences of growing up in Japan and later working in France amidst the legacy of World War II. As a mainstay of the radical post-war Tokyo art scene and a revolutionary figure in the European avant-garde, Kudo’s unique combination of politics and aestheticism in Souvenir – La Mue remains searingly contemporary.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1970.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Tetsumi Kudo: Pollution, Cultivation, New Ecology, Your Portrait, 1972, no. 20.
    Deurle, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Verzameling Roger en Hilda Matthys-Colle, 2007, p. 141 (illustrated in colour, p. 58).