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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED JAPANESE COLLECTION

Ho (Crawl)

Ho (Crawl)
signed, dated and titled in Japanese (on a label on the reverse)
oil on plywood
183.5 x 183.5 cm. (72 1⁄4 x 72 1⁄4 in.)
Painted in 1961
Private collection, Akita
Gallery Yuuka, Tokyo
Yanagisawa Collection (Acquired from the above on 5th of November 2008)
Acquired from the above by the present owner

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Takeo Yamaguchi Artwork Registration Association.
The National Museum of Art, Exhibition Yamaguchi Takeo & Horiuchi Masakazu, exh. cat., Tokyo, 1980 (illustrated, no. 62, p. 105).
Takeo Yamaguchi, Kodansha, Takeo Yamaguchi Sakuhinshu, Tokyo, 1981 (illustrated, no. 191, p. 68).
Tokyo, Minami Gallery, Takeo Yamaguchi, December 1961.
Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition Yamaguchi Takeo & Horiuchi Masakazu, 23 April- 8 June 1980.
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Brought to you by

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

Lot Essay

“As the thickness of the paint increases, the voice of the colour also increases. [Yamaguchi] listens attentively to that voice with his whole body and proceeds according to the demands of colour […] sometimes also suppressing them. In that process the form is reborn through colour.”--Asano Tōru

Christie’s proudly presents Ho (Crawl), an exceptional piece by the master of abstraction Takeo Yamaguchi. An extremely rare exemplar of his large-scale works, this painting is also one of the largest from his early period in the 1960s that have appeared in the auction market, comparable even to those currently in major museums. Created in 1961, Ho (Crawl) not only testifies to the best of the artist’s stylistic and creative endeavours during his mature period as a post-war abstract painter, but also witnesses an important period in the global history of art. In 1958 and 1961, this South Korea-born Japanese artist was invited by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York respectively to participate in their exhibitions. It was at this time that Yamaguchi rose to the top of the global avant-garde art scene which saw the burgeoning abstract expressions in the post-war period.

Born in Japanese-occupied Korea, Yamaguchi was admitted to the Western painting programme at the Tokyo University of the Arts. During this period, he was deeply moved by leading art movements from Europe including Cubism and Constructivism—so much so that in 1930 he journeyed all the way to Paris to learn and experiment with Abstract Expressionism. Upon his return in 1931, Yamaguchi immediately threw himself into organising annuals exhibitions for the Nika art association, the most powerful and influential avant-garde art institution in the history of Japanese painting. Later, he even continued the mission of advancing the development of avant-garde abstract art in East Asia after the war by establishing Kyushitsu-kai together with other pioneers in the Japanese art scene including Jiro Yoshihara (the founder of Gutai) and Yoshishige Saito (the teacher of the founder of the Mono-ha movement). Bridging the East and West, modern and tradition, Yamaguchi not only fought to open serious dialogues with the world about global art history, he also treated finding an endearing voice which could define his own culture as an important goal—a goal that is best encapsulated in Ho (Crawl).

Ho (Crawl) defines itself first and foremost by its palette: the artist’s iconic burnt russet red. This red, which calls to mind the soil of his home country Korea, symbolizes Yamaguchi’s profound relationship with his personal past. In the hand of the artist, layers of red pigment cover each other and call the viewer’s attention to the very materiality and tactility of the almost volumetric surface. Through these thickly applied planes, the artist discovered the textural principle behind colours that was to become key to the formulation of his idiosyncratic—and perhaps even sculptural—visual idiom. At the same time, Ho (Crawl) also embodies the unstoppable forces of nature. By piecing geometric shapes together to construct abstract figural forms in motion, the artist has shattered the box that in its strict adherence to formal qualities has long limited our ability to see and experience art. Here, his minimalist treatment of shapes and colours become the most powerful signals that point poignantly to the internal energy of life.

Indeed, Takeo Yamaguchi’s influence extends far beyond his time and space. In addition to being exhibited in the large-scale exhibition curated by the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Ho (Crawl) has a distinguished provenance and was handed down through important institutions and private collectors. This is not to mention that other comparable paintings are also currently housed in many major museums. In addition, Yamaguchi was also devoted to nurturing future generations of leading Asian artists. For over twenty years at Musashino Art University, he had mentored countless students. His constant pushing of the boundaries and redefining of Japanese-Korean avant-garde art, for instance, has laid a solid foundation for later and eminent Korean artists such as Lee Ufan and Kim Whanki. All in all, Yamaguchi’s decisive role in defining the path for future Asian contemporary abstract art is beyond dispute.

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