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The Met No. 1

The Met No. 1
signed, dated and titled '07 The Met'; signed again and inscribed 'The Amusement of Dreams, Hope and Perfection Series' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
240 x 200.5 cm. (94?1/2 x 78? 7⁄8 in.)
Painted in 2007
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
Private Collection, Asia
Bangkok, Art Center, 7th Floor, the Centre of Academic Resources (Central Library), Chulalongkorn University, The Amusement of Dreams, Hope and Perfection, October - November 2007

Brought to you by

Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

‘The Metropolitan Museum (Met) shopping bag is totally disconnected from the Asian art scene. There are a lot of “The Met” shops in Asia but no museum – what is the meaning of this?’ - Natee Utarit

Thai artist Natee Utarit has consistently exhibited and produced various series of work that tackles objective representation, cultural relevance, and the disposition of memories. A deeper study of his oeuvre has revealed an organic and intuitive framework in attempting to contextualize his works. Albeit being known for his clever incorporation of curtailed visual allegories that are rampant and based on recognizable objects (toys, books and memorabilia), his ultimate goal is to foster discourse and contemplation about post-colonialism, social-political issues as well as personal and national identity. Additionally he infuses the essence of familiar western painting traditions and historical events to present his macro-level views of the world.

‘When I started painting these still life in the middle of 2006, I chose to work with objects that could be used as a “medium” for conveying a range of meanings.’

Utarit is well-known for his layered approach to still-life paintings. This season, Christie’s presents The Met No. 1 produced by Utarit in 2007. A significant and important work in the artist’s oeuvre; it was exhibited at Chulalongkorn University Art Gallery in late 2007 as part of the exhibition The Amusement of Dreams, Hope and Perfection. This work was also the first and largest that sought to reflect “the strange condition of Asian art in the capitalistic climate of the past five years”. Utarit retells that The Metropolitan Museum set-up their retail store in Bangkok that year; it was merely a museum shop but was not part of a physical art museum. It triggered him to conceptualize his take on the commercialized nature of today’s art experience; and to think ‘beyond the object’.

In The Met No. 1 a single red Met Museum of Art paper bag rests on a cold concrete grey floor; almost filling the entire canvas. It is positioned at a slight 45 degree angle, and casts a shadow on the bottom right of the painting. The creases on the bag are defined by the shades of red, and creates a contrast with the smooth-matt background. There exists a juxtaposition of simplicity in form, colour and technique that ironically prompts a dive deeper into a search for more meaning. The choice of a single subject matter is also reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s work titled ‘Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato)’ painted in 1962 at the height of the American Post-War economic recovery, and at the blossoming start of the Pop Art movement. In a similar fashion, we understand that Utarit had embarked on this Met series in light of Post-Colonialism and his wish to narrate the commercialized nature of today’s art experience in a renewed sense. Utarit also produced 3 other subsequent works, The Met No. 2 (2007) which depicts a close-up view of half the Met bag and smaller in size; The Met Bag (Blue) (2008), and The Yellow Met (2007) as part of the series.

Having exhibited widely and internationally in Singapore, Italy, Norway, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Switzerland, Korea, Germany, Thailand and China, Utarit is definitely an artist that has proven to be at the forefront of Southeast Asian and Thai contemporary art. His dedication and sophistication in producing exceptional works backed with genuine intention is a great asset to the art world.

“I want my paintings to have the atmosphere of a place that is difficult to determine as either a dream or reality. The images do not identify time or place but that are still lit from an unknown source. Caravaggio and Vermeer used similar methods.” - Natee Utarit

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