MADSAKI (B. 1974)
MADSAKI (B. 1974)
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MADSAKI (B. 1974)

Liberty Leading the People II (Inspired by Eugene Delacroix)

MADSAKI (B. 1974)
Liberty Leading the People II (Inspired by Eugene Delacroix)
signed and dated ‘madsaki 2018’ (on the overlap)
acrylic and aerosol on canvas
260.5 x 325.2 cm. (102 1/2 x 128 in.)
Painted in 2018
Perrotin, Paris, France
Private Collection, Asia
Paris, France, Perrotin, MADSAKI: French Fries with Mayo, 6 – 22 September 2018.

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Lot Essay

“My signature with the drippy smiley eyes, it started out with the Wannabe series. Every time I spray the eyes and the mouth, it just drips. I found it interesting, so I kept it that way. People always ask me what it means. I’d rather have the viewers think about it. Is it crying? Is it smiling? It’s like a clown really. It’s ambivalent.” MADSAKI

Defined by MADSAKI’s signature torrents and drips of aerosol and paint, Liberty Leading the People II pays tribute to the eponymous 19th century masterpiece by French artist Eugène Delacroix on which it is based. The work is part of the artist’s Wannabe series, in which MADSAKI set out to reinterpret familiar old master paintings using mediums more commonly associated with street art, and it was featured as the leading work of his debut Paris exhibition at Galerie Perrotin French Fries with Mayo in 2018. Liberty Leading the People II confronts viewers with its monumental scale, which is exactly the same size as the original work on which it is based, making this painting the second largest work by the artist’s to ever be offered at auction.

In Liberty Leading the People II , MADSAKI blurs the boundaries between “high” and “low” art by utilizing aerosol paints and spray cans – media more commonly applied to street-art – while exploring a classical subject. Across the expansive canvas, every character, object, and element is directly borrowed from Delacroix’s original. Yet when the viewer regards the work from a distance, the sense of familiarity recedes and viewers are confronted by a strong contemporary energy exuding from the scene. Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People was originally painted to commemorate the Paris Uprising of July 1930, where the central female figure is an allegorical depiction of Liberty who leads other fighters from different social classes. Yet, as MADSAKI transforms the determined expressions of these heroic figures, giving them dripping black smiles and hollow eyes, the dynamic is destabilized. The powerfully charged patriotism of the original is altered, rendered ambiguous, replaced by a contemporary appropriation that rebels against the conventional norms of fine art.

Speaking about the process that went into creating this work, MADSAKI stated “I went ahead and picked masterpieces by great artists found in French museums, including Gauguin, Monet, Manet, Delacroix, Ingres and so on. I can usually work rather quickly, but not always. […] I can’t just fake it! I’ve got to really dig into each composition and put a lot of layers of colors.” (MADSAKI, French Fries with Mayo press release, Galerie Perrotin, 2018.) Using aerosol allows MADSAKI to update and reinterpret these masterpieces as works that are emblematic of his own era, while inhabiting the space occupied by the old masters. He does not paint meticulously, but marks the canvas with frenzied lines – an artistic approach influenced by one of his favourite artists, Cy Twombly. Both artists, despite working in different decades, employ unconventional mediums in their freespirited, graffiti-like works, infusing them with a similar gestural, organic energy. “I first draw the rough sketch of a masterpiece with a marker, and then I recreate it with spray paint in one go. If only for an instant, I feel possessed by an artist from the past, which gives me the illusion of acquiring freedom from this world.” (ibid.)

MADSAKI’s artistic career took off after he first connected with fellow Japanese artist Takashi Murakami over Instagram in 2015, and he later joined Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Tokyo. Over the past few years, the artist has continued to garner acclaim and success, with all top ten auction records for his work set within the past two years. Unafraid to comment on the institutions of art history, MADSAKI creates work inspired by the past yet defined by his own iconic visual language, symbolizing the shifts of the wider art world in the contemporary era.

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