On Kawara (Japanese, 1933) June 10, 1967 (from Today series, No.101) 1967

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Lot 11*
On Kawara
(Japanese, 1933)
June 10, 1967 (from Today series, No.101)

Sold for £ 176,500 (US$ 218,148) inc. premium
On Kawara (Japanese, 1933)
June 10, 1967 (from Today series, No.101)

signed in Japanese, dated 1967 and inscribed To Bob and Sally Manness. On this date December 30 1967 on the reverse; signed in Japanese on a label affixed to the stretcher
Liquitex on canvas

25.4 by 33 cm.
10 by 13 in.


  • Provenance
    Gift from the artist to the present owner in 1967

    One of the most intriguing and rigorous conceptual artists working today, On Kawara is continually and relentlessly pursuing his singular interest: time, its effect on our daily lives and its importance as the measure of human existence. This interest has now spanned to more than four decades in his pure and highly conceptual works, of which the Today Series, or Date paintings, is probably the best known.
    The intense focus on the present, which is ubiquitous in On Kawara's work, stems from his teenage experiences of the World War II in Japan. Never discussing his own work and only allowing closely select others to talk about it, we know that On Kawara was deeply affected by the insecurity and horror of the nuclear bombings in Japan, and that this was in many respects a life-changing moment for the artist. Although he produced different works early in his career, most of these were destroyed by his own hand. The Today series started in New York in 1966, and it continues to this day wherever the artist happens to be in the world. June 10, 1967 is a very early example of this series dedicated to his friends and gifted on December 30th of the same year.

    The immaculate surface of the Date paintings is the result of a precise and time-consuming process that requires great craftsmanship, and takes hours to complete, serving as a form of daily meditation for the artist. Four coats of paint are applied on a canvas that can come in any one of the 8 sizes the artist uses, and each coat is given the correct time to dry before being rubbed down for the next layer. The text is hand drawn in white liquitex with a tapered brush, a ruler and a set square. In this schematic approach, the only two variables in the Date paintings are the language, which changes with the country where the work is created, and the background colour of the works.

    Much like Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner, both of whom chose pure text over representation in their works, On Kawara also used text as the basis of both the artwork and the idea itself, stripping the works to the simplest formal representation. But whilst Weiner presented art as language and Kosuth used words as the pure subject of his work, On Kawara's intent is primarily focused on the concept of time: using the letters and numerals to create a date is a formal choice solely aimed at encouraging contemplation in the viewer. With time as the sole content of these works and date as the primary subject, On Kawara records daily existence with detachment that leaves it to the viewer to invest their own memories or knowledge of the date in question to engage with the works. The formal simplicity of the aesthetics in the Date paintings and the complexity of their execution infuse them with meaning and resonance that go beyond their simple appearance and form. These highly conceptual works are clinically neutral until you happen to come across a painting that bears the date that is deeply connected with your life - a child's birthday, a wedding anniversary - and it is then that these works suddenly become highly personal.

    On Kawara starts one Date painting every day and keeps it only if the work is completed in that same day, making the works almost the relics of the day when they were created. This is especially true for June 10, 1967, since we know from the label on the stretcher that on this particular day the artist went to see A Countess From Hong Kong starring Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, accompanied by the current owner of this painting. On Kawara's need to constantly engage with time forms not only the core of his artistic practice, but also permeates every facet of his life. This early example belongs to one of the most mysterious and iconic series in artistic production of the last forty years.
On Kawara (Japanese, 1933) June 10, 1967 (from Today series, No.101) 1967
On Kawara (Japanese, 1933) June 10, 1967 (from Today series, No.101) 1967
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