Kazuo Shiraga (Japanese, 1924-2008) Untitled (Red Fan) 1965

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Lot 33
Kazuo Shiraga
(Japanese, 1924-2008)
Untitled (Red Fan)

Sold for £ 1,538,500 (US$ 2,070,863) inc. premium
Kazuo Shiraga (Japanese, 1924-2008)
Untitled (Red Fan)

lacquer on paper and wood

151 by 304.5 by 50.5 cm.
59 7/16 by 119 7/8 by 19 7/8 in.

This work was executed in 1965.


  • Provenance
    International Gallery Orez, The Hague
    Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner in 1966
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    Osaka, Gutai Pinacotheca, 15th Gutai Art Exhibition, 1965
    Tokyo, Keio Department Store, 16th Gutai Art Exhibition, 1965
    The Hague, International Gallery Orez, Facets of New Tendencies, 1966
    Rotterdam, Experiment Studio Rotterdam, Gutaï Groep Osaka Japan, 1967, n.p., installation view illustrated in black and white
    Klagenfurt, Galerie Heide Hildebrand, Gutai, 1967
    Lugano, Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Gutai: dipingere con il tempo e lo spazio, 2010-2011, p. 210, fig. 42, illustrated in black and white
    New York, Hauser & Wirth, A Visual Essay on Gutai at 32 East 69th Street, 2012, n.p., no. 4, illustrated in colour
    London, Bonhams, ZERO | GUTAI | KUSAMA, 2015, pp. 6, 7, 42, 43 details illustrated in colour and pp. 45, 107 illustrated in colour

    Jiro Yoshihara, Gutai 14 Journal, Osaka 1965, no. 28, illustrated in black and white
    J.V., 'Kunsthandwerkers tonen produkten in Galerij Orez' in Het Binnenhof, 20 September 1966, detail illustrated in black and white
    Document Gutai, 1954-1972, Ashiya 1993, p. 57, installation view illustrated in black and white; p. 193, installation view illustrated in black and white and p. 201, installation view illustrated in black and white
    Ming Tiampo, Gutai: Decentering Modernism, Chicago 2011, p. 136, no. 5.10, installation view illustrated in black and white
    Hirai Shoichi, GUTAI: The Spirit of an Era, Tokyo 2012, p. 136, installation view illustrated in black and white
    Kazuo Shiraga, New York 2015, p. 264, installation view illustrated in black and white and p. 289, installation view illustrated in black and white
    Body and Matter: Kazuo Shiraga | Satoru Hoshino, New York 2015, p. 119, installation view illustrated in black and white
    Gabriel Ritter Ed., Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga, Dallas 2015, p. 79, fig. 32, illustrated in colour

    Untitled (Red Fan) from 1965 is one of only a handful of sculptural works created by the Gutai group founding member Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008) and the very first ever to appear at auction. The first sculpture executed by the artist was the monumental Red Timber (1957) which is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. Untitled (Red Fan) was created eight years later and is rendered in the same intense hue, 'Crimson Lake', the artist's favourite colour at that time. The present work is made from red laquered tissue paper and folded in the manner of a traditional Japanese fan. With this object the artist integrated a traditional Japanese symbol into the cultural avant garde of the period and in 1965, Untitled (Red Fan) was exhibited at the 15th Gutai Art Exhibition (in Osaka) and in the 16th Gutai Art Exhibition (in Tokyo). In 1965, Shiraga executed three other fans, most notably Shiroi Ougi (White Fan) which now resides in the collection of the Bridgestone Museum of Art in Tokyo. The green fan and a further red fan are included in important private collections. The symbol of the fan was key to the artist and as such Shiraga continued the Fan series into the 1960s and '70s though in much smaller formats.

    Shiraga always was a very physical artist. He became known primarily for painting with his feet on a canvas spread out on the floor, while the artist was suspended by a rope attached to a high ceiling. In the mid 1960s he began to use boards to make his foot paintings, which led to the emergence of arc-like or fan shapes and circles on the canvas. He always considered his physical actions to be linked to spiritual experiences. In the early 1960s Shiraga became interested in esoteric Buddhism. Whilst out hunting wild boar he encountered many carved stone tablets. Buddhist teaching involves the transmission of secret texts through direct experience, often involving physically demanding austerities. Ten years later he would involve those principles in his artistic practise. The symbol of the circle then became a central feature in Shiraga's paintings; the Buddhist wheel or circle refers to the Wheel of Law or to the cycle of rebirth. Untitled (Red Fan) represents an early example of this religious interest. A fan is fundamentally symbolic in Japan, with the shorter end representing birth and the blades standing for the many possible paths leading away from this start in life. Fans are used in religious ceremonies; holding a fan is meant to be restorative to the soul. The integration of a traditional Japanese object with Buddhist connotations in a three dimensional art work is unique in Shiraga's oeuvre.

    In 1966 this sculpture travelled to Europe where it was shown in an exhibition at the Orez International Gallery in The Hague, Holland, in September 1966. The exhibition was a group show titled Facets of new tendencies which included work by several members of the Gutai group as well as other avant-garde artists such as Yayoi Kusama. In May 1967, Orez International curated a Gutai exhibition and accompanying catalogue at Studio Experiment in Rotterdam; this catalogue contains images of works by the participating Gutai artists including Shiraga's present work. One month later, Orez International Gallery curated a Gutai exhibition at Heide Hildebrand Gallery in the Austrian city of Klagenfurt. A surviving photograph of that exhibition shows this sculpture in combination with other pieces from the Rotterdam catalogue. After 1967, this sculpture remained in a distinguished, private European collection for forty-three years until in 2010 when it was exhibited in the Gutai exhibition at the Museo Cantonale d'Arte in Lugano, Switzerland. There, it proudly shared a room with Shiraga's other sculptural masterpiece, Red Timber (1957). In September 2012, Untitled (Red Fan) was included in an exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Gallery in New York, in the very same building that once housed Martha Jackson Gallery where the first American Gutai exhibition took place in 1958.

    The Gutai group was founded in 1954 by the charismatic Jirō Yoshihara. The name means 'concrete' and stood for the desire to produce art that would relate to the Post-War Japanese world in a concrete fashion. At this point it is important to remember that during the Second World War Japanese artists were forced by their government to put their artistic talents in the service of the national war machine. Those who did not, were considered decadent and risked imprisonment. The first generation of Gutai artists, including Saburo Murakami, Shozo Shimamoto and Kazuo Shiraga, experimented with performance art well before this became common practice in the West. Between 1955 and 1958 Yoshihara organised four exhibitions in space (open air), and two in time (on stage). Murakami literally broke boundaries by jumping through large paper canvases. Shimamoto invited the spectator to walk on a work of his, consisting of firm and wobbly planks. Shiraga started painting with his feet: the human body as a brush. Tropes as diverse as the elements, weather, smoke, spontaneous actions of spectators - all were welcome in this new approach to the visual arts.

    1965, the year of the execution of this sculpture, was a turning point in the history of Gutai not least because it represented the first year in which the movement collaborated formally with what might be seen to be its European sister groups ZERO and Nul. These movements came into being independently but shared many of the same principles and approaches to medium and process. In that year, the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum organised the Nul 1965 exhibition which included the German ZERO group. The Japanese Gutai group was invited as to participate as well. ZERO had come into being during evening exhibitions in the Düsseldorf studio of Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, in 1958. During the first phase ZERO concentrated on a severe formal and expressive reduction of artistic means, in monochrome paintings that were a reaction to the fashionable Abstract Expressionism of the 1950's. Around 1965, ZERO had embraced the elements as its material: earth, fire, water, air – not unlike Gutai.

    Untitled (Red Fan) is undoubtedly one of Shiraga's most important works in a long and celebrated career. The fact that it has been exhibited so widely and remained in the same collection for over 50 years makes its presence at auction remarkable. That no sculpture by Shiraga, let alone such a monumental, signature piece, has ever appeared on the open market makes this a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Kazuo Shiraga (Japanese, 1924-2008) Untitled (Red Fan) 1965
Kazuo Shiraga (Japanese, 1924-2008) Untitled (Red Fan) 1965
Kazuo Shiraga (Japanese, 1924-2008) Untitled (Red Fan) 1965
Kazuo Shiraga (Japanese, 1924-2008) Untitled (Red Fan) 1965
Kazuo Shiraga (Japanese, 1924-2008) Untitled (Red Fan) 1965
Kazuo Shiraga (Japanese, 1924-2008) Untitled (Red Fan) 1965
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