Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who is best known for his psychedelic pop art, will enter the Indian auction market for the first time this month. At Mumbai-based online auction house AstaGuru’s Southeast Asian Contemporary Art sale, Murakami’s Blue Flower, an explosion of smiling cartoon flowers made of acrylic and platinum leaf, is estimated to go between ₹1.99-3.32 crore. Murakami has often been called the Andy Warhol of Japan, often synthesizing contrasting traditions of Japanese visual culture, from woodcut prints to anime and manga. The happy flower with 12 petals, seen in this current lot, is his most recognizable leitmotif, the way endless dots are Yayoi Kusama’s.
Murakami’s pop painting carries the highest estimate price among the 90 lots that will go under the hammer at the online sale. On offer are other contemporary works by Asian artists, many of which question notions of “high" art, such as a graffiti work by Indonesian artist Oky Rey Montha. In Life Is A Competition (estimated between ₹3.99-5.32 lakh), Montha makes use of spray paint to create a polychromatic, grotesque cartoon. Montha identifies himself as a pop surrealist and is known for these psychological works that often tread the line between the real and the fantastical. There is also Chinese artist Yue Minjun, who has been exploring socio-political changes in China after the Tiananmen Square Uprising in 1989. Minjin’s art, often categorized as part of the Cynical Realist movement (a label he rejects), typically features his laughing self-portrait. Like Murakami’s flowers, there is a certain madness in this laughter.
AstaGuru’s sale returns after the interest generated at its debut last year, when work worth ₹24.78 crore was sold. While the lots are strictly not all from South-East Asia—there are Indian, Pakistani and East Asian lots, too—the sale captures some of the most versatile, hard-hitting contemporary practices in the regions. Tushar Sethi, CEO of AstaGuru, says that the segment has been researched and chalked out for a while and therefore a second outing was due. Sethi says, “The evolving palate of art patrons in India also encouraged us to take this step in terms of diversifying and presenting the South-East Asian segment in particular. The segment reflects the confidence that the patrons have, based on which we are not one bit apprehensive to showcase and present this collection."
Works by Indian artists such as Anju Dodiya and N.S. Harsha are also part of this sale.
The online sale will be held in four slots on 22-23 August at Astaguru.com.