日本芸術文化の象徴、国民的な漫画・アニメキャラクタードラえもん、村上隆の作品として、オークションにて約6100万円で落札 DORAEMON, iconic Manga-Anime-“character” and symbol of Japanese art + culture, sells as MURAKAMI Takashi’s work for 565.000 US$ @ Sotheby’s
Dear readers and friends of ART+CULTURE, I never imagined to write one day about a live auction in detail, as I’m an artist and not Judd Tully, who constantly wrote for The Art Newspaper and ART+AUCTION Magazine or Katya Kazakina, who until recently reported for Bloomberg. Both had to bite the dust and seem actually working as freelancers (Katya just started her new job at Artnet News Pro).
But hey, when circumstances allow, since our superflatty, superarty, megawatt art market star, Kaikai Kiki CEO TAKASHI 隆くん plays the protagonist, let’s have some fun with a global live auction, coming directly from neighbouring Hong Kong.
As already one month passed, I’ll try my best to recapitulate. Hope we can get a kind of document for future archival procedures in the libraries of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Museum of Modern Art, both Tokyo.
As an extension of the Japanese government’s strategical effort to promote Japanese culture in a globalised context, and hereby being appreciated by the youth of neighbouring Asian countries, –
– got a not planed, but welcomed injection through a noteworthy art market result: Japan’s most famous contemporary artist MURAKAMI Takashi 村上隆 could sell DORAEMON ドラえもん in the international auction arena.
The work had been first sold by Larry Gagosian to an anonymous client.
It can be regarded as an example parvenu regarding art flippers 投機好きなアート.
(Learn more via:)
アートマーケットと現代アート・フリッパーについて Art Market and Art Flippers
“Doraemon Sitting Up: Weeping Some, Laughing Some” (In Japanese: おすわりドラえもん 泣いたり笑ったり; notice the strange translations into English and Chinese) had been executed in the first days of January 2020 in Murakami’s atelier in Saitama, a city north of Tokyo, Japan. Shortly after, exhibited in the GAGOSIAN booth E20 @ Taipei Dangdai 台北當代 2020 (2020/1/16-19), Taiwan, see below screenshots.
One month ago in China, on April 19th, during Hong Kong’s Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sale, “Doraemon Sitting Up: Weeping Some, Laughing Some” 2020 (坐起來的哆啦A夢：哭哭笑笑) found a buyer for 4.410.000 HKD, equivalent to 61 million Japanese Yen (6100万円) or 565.000 US$. I don’t know, where the other “half”, titled in Chinese: “哆啦A夢，讓我們與藤子F‧不二雄大師一起坐上時光機跨越這些維度！” (2020) of the two DORAEMONs is, see above screenshots. With my artist’s eyes, I may claim that the two DORAEMONs had been created by Takashi as a diptych. It makes sense. If that’s the case, this beautifully executed diptych should have never been “destroyed”, plus, shame on the person who did it. (I have experienced the same problem with one of my diptych works and with a Japanese colleague (A.M.), too.)
Let’s get back to this unfortunate sale in question. It’s not the first time we see a person, or a proxy (by the gallery or artist?), selling a newly created painting at the auction house. On top of that, without hesitation or having scruples, Phillips auction house recently announced to purchase art works directly from the primary market or artists’ studio for their Art Advisory – clients in spe.
In this special DORAEMON ドラえもん case, what we know for sure: Takashi, 藤子・F・不二雄 “Fujiko Fujio” (the company involved) and Larry allowed to let this kind of art flipping happen. If we ask Takashi himself, he will play the naïve, as the art business represents a highly secretive world. This confidential context I personally do comply, – and that’s the reason why I’m trusted in the Japanese art industry. Once a secret information had been passed over to me, the source knows that I won’t tell her or his name. Let’s call it my personal Japanese-Italian-German identity (see my body of work “ROBERTO” from 2004), after nearly 40 years, trying to balance between “playing the ignorant”- & “molti nemici, molto onore”-thing, lol.
To give you a perspective, Takashi’s peers like KUSAMA Yayoi 草間彌生 or NARA Yoshitomo 奈良美智 and their art dealers won’t allow their clients to do this kind of art flipping.
I remember seeing the same pattern by art flippers with Jeff Koons and Damian Hirst. These two globally practicing artists purposely exploit the auction world, refusing to answer questions when asked about their strange-looking auction results. Let’s not forget, the night before the Global Financial Collapse in 2008, Damian Hirst, with the help of Sotheby’s, directly sold a whole bunch of his newly executed works. The art elite in Great Britain, – curators, critics, art advisors – , the global media, all cooperated or tolerated this kind of direct sales through an auction house. Google: “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”.
That’s the reason why I call the whole situation “shabbiness” 「貧乏臭さ」, implying a sense of sarcasm, in my former text about Takashi’s DORAEMON’s auction event.
Symbol of “Shabbiness”: MURAKAMI Takashi, Doraemon, Fujiko Fujio, Gagosian. Art Flipper: Work of 2020 Selling at April 2021 Auction
Poor guys, who have to do such a thing. Definitely, not for the pure Sake of art. Kanpai.
Other powerhouse galleries, like Pace, Goodman or Zwirner force the buyer to sign a contract, in which she/he is not allowed to sell the art work at an auction house for the next 10 years. In case it happens, add one more name on BLAC (Black List of Art Clients).
May I hereby quote Sotheby’s outgoing Asia CEO Kevin Ching:
“When I joined 15 years ago, we were reminded not to link art and investment. Investment was almost an ugly word. Then, the world changed. As art became more expensive, a painting is not just art.”
“When someone is spending US$20 million to US$30 million, say, on a piece of art, it would be silly not to ask if it’d make good investment. So to sell a painting, you can no longer just rely on the expertise of your specialists. I’m leaving at the right time. Now it’s about deals.”
アジアのアートマーケットの中心的人物：26歳のネイサン ドライ氏、新CEO サザビーズアジア (サザビーズのオーナー パトリック・ドライの息子）
Key Person of Asia’s Art Market: 26 Years Old Nathan Drahi, New CEO Sotheby’s Asia (Son of Sotheby’s Owner Patrick Drahi)
Emphasising the new status quo in the art industry, I wrote:
“My dear readers and friends of ART+CULTURE, don’t be disappointed. Deal with it.
That’s the New Normal in the Contemporary Art World. Remain sceptical towards the words by gallery owners, artists, art advisors and curators. Art Business by the art dealers of the galleries implies deep knowledge of the auction world.”
One week ago, just by chance a similar case of “misconduct” by an American collector from the West Coast popped up into my eyes, as I encountered the identical work actually at Sotheby’s also in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden 2013. “David Bowie” by Elizabeth Peyton executed in 2012. Because of the historical status of Bowie, for Elizabeth Peyton it was a cheap decision of art practice. The most decorative painting over a bourgeois billionaire’s sofa I can imagine of. British music icon David Bowie reduced to some commercial arty Pop-mud.
A safe bet for every artist, art dealer and collector. I am quite sure that this painting on the first day of the L.A. exhibition in April 2012 experienced a high number of clients, willing to pay even more as had been written on the (secretive?) price list. When Regen Projects decided to whom this specific work should be given, obviously Steven F. Roth, co-founder of talent agency CAA, and a trustee at both major Los Angeles museums, Museum of Contemporary Art MOCA and Los Angeles County Museum of Art LACMA, was the right choice. Because he promised to pass over the Bowie painting as a gift to LACMA (translate: tax rebate). That’s the way how art history in the United States of America is being made. But not in Japan or in Europe.
Why do I know this kind of behind-the-scene information? Simply by having taken a shot from the explanatory text, see below pic.
Consequently, could Elizabeth happily announce an acquisition by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art LACMA?
Check this: デヴィッド・ボウイと一緒に踊る Dancing with David Bowie
Keep in mind, that from no side we heard any complains. Silencio by Regen Projects, Steven F. Roth, the artist, LACMA, trustees, curators, auction house, art writers, art magazines etc.., that’s how it functions in the art world. My dear artist compañero, better you (not) join and (not) deal with it.
Let’s get back to DORAEMON ドラえもん and Takashi-kun, who knows how to play and deal in the stratosphere of the male museum trustees and their tax rebates. Arty myth making with money of the rich in the anti-intellectual world of the United States of America.
For the non-initiate, you may ask, what is DORAEMON, right?
DORAEMON can be called one of the cultural icons in Japan. To get an idea, just ask yourself what do I know about Japan? FUJIYAMA, SAKURA, TOKYO, KYOTO, HIROSHIMA, FUKUSHIMA, KABUKI, GODZILLA, KIMONO, KARAOKE, SONY, PANASONIC, SEGA, NINTENDO, GEISHA, SAMURAI, ZEN, TOYOTA, NISSAN, HONDA, KAWASAKI, MATCHA, SUPER MARIO BROS., ARAKI, HOKUSAI or POKEMON. Definitely, regarding the genre of Japanese cartoon and comic strip, ergo, Manga 漫画, Anime アニメ and Otaku-culture オタク文化, the most famous and influential icon is DORAEMON ドラえもん.
As a reference you may learn more via:
現代日本のオタク文化：名取さな Contemporary Japanese Otaku Culture: SANA NATORI
This kind of fusion between manga/anime/otaku and Japanese artists isn’t something new, however, Takashi’s clever branding strategy catapulted DORAEMON into the realms of the global contemporary art world. In this sense, he finally succeeded in his long journey to get the beloved Japanese “anime-character” appreciated in the universe of the internationally operating art business people. I guess, he must be a very, very happy artist now. I could ask him directly, but as we all know, he submerges in scatalogical contradictions. Check:
MURAKAMI Takashi Refuses To Give Any Press Interview (repost from the archive 過去サイト・アーカイブの再投稿 2015/10/16)
To let you know, how much bidding interest our DORAEMON received, I “sacrificed” my precious time and watched the 3 hours live auction via the internet. Honestly speaking, a disappointing “no-battle“, short bidding of 1 minute and 17 seconds for Murakami’s piece occurred; starting at 2:48:50 and ending abruptly at 2:50:12.
Ian McGinlay, the auctioneer in charge, started with the low estimate of 2,800,000 HKD by an absentee bidder from his own list, “on the book” so to speak.
Silence in the room.
Silence in London.
Silence in New York.
Nowhere any hands up.
Neither a signal from the left side, by highly respected “Yuki”, TERASE Yuki 寺瀬由紀, Sotheby’s Senior Director, Head of Contemporary Art, Asia Hong Kong, as she normally has a long list of Japanese clients in her magic hat. Unfortunately she’ll leave Sotheby’s in July, please read:
Sotheby’s Harsh Reshuffle: After Amy Cappellazzo and Kevin Ching, Next Prominent Figure TERASE Yuki Bites the Dust
During this live auction an unforeseeable fiasco for DORAEMON and Murakami could have had happened! Tbh, I didn’t expect this kind of silence around the globe. Hey, it’s DORAEMON, our most popular Japanese anime icon!
Finally, – veteran Carrie Li, Sotheby’s Senior Director (Senior Specialist, Chinese Works of Art) put her hand up, quickly having been outbid by auctioneer McGinlay again. Carrie Li’s only 1 (!) bid wasn’t convincing for me. With an expert eye, I could assume that a typical case of shill bidding at Sotheby’s occurred. Of course, “nobody” knows. For the auction story it’s better to have not one but at least two bidders.
Well. That’s all Folks!
A seemingly disappointed auctioneer closed with a hammer price of 3.500.000 HKD.
Adding the buyer’s premium （手数料込み）, the final price resulted in 4.410.000 HKD, equivalent to 61 million Japanese Yen (6100万円) or 565.000 US$.
Following, as archive, detailed screenshots of both sides of the DORAEMON work and its scandalous, “short-living” provenance.
Contemporary Art Evening Sale
19 April 2021 • 19:00 HKT • Hong Kong
Contemporary Art Evening Sale / Lot 1142
Takashi Murakami 村上隆
Doraemon Sitting Up: Weeping Some, Laughing Some
2,800,000 – 3,800,000 HKD
360,307 – 488,988 US$
39,207,636 – 53,210,363 JPY 円
Doraemon Sitting Up: Weeping Some, Laughing Some
acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on wood panel
signed and dated 2020 on the reverse
122.9 by 94 by 4.8 cm. 48⅜ by 37 by 1⅞ in.
122.9 x 94 x 4.8 公分，48⅜ x 37 x 1⅞ 英寸
Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Doraemon Sitting Up: Weeping Some, Laughing Some by Takashi Murakami is a unique shaped canvas featuring the classic Japanese manga series Doraemon. Murakami’s fixation with Doraemon dates back to his landmark 2005 exhibition Little Boy; in the catalogue, Murakami interpreted Doraemon against the context of Japan’s recent history, comparing the plight of the character Nobita to the overall sentiment of postwar Japan. Shortly after Little Boy, Murakami was asked to contribute to Doraemon creator Fujiko F. Fujio’s Please Make Your Own Doraemon exhibition. Later in 2017, Murakami created the main visual for The Doraemon Exhibition Tokyo at the Mori Arts Center Gallery in Tokyo, and also designed collaborative T-shirts with Uniqlo featuring the Doraemon character.
A self-described manga geek, Murakami’s aesthetic brings together high and low art, fusing the motifs and philosophies of traditional masters and commercial artwork – manga and anime in particular. The cheerful and iconic Doraemon Sitting Up: Weeping Some, Laughing Some represents a consummate expression of Takashi Murakami’s artistic enterprise executed in line with his meticulously exacting standards: flawlessly rendered with digital-like perfection, the piece is an immediately impactful paradigm of the historically multi-layered yet fetishistically flat production of Murakami.
One of the most acclaimed postwar Asian artists to have reached superstar status in the international art world, Murakami is celebrated for his era-defining oeuvre that merged contemporary pop culture with fine art. First introducing his revolutionary ‘Superflat’ philosophy in the 1990s, Murakami’s works draw on everything from anime and manga to Buddhist forms and iconography to Pop and Abstract Expressionism, while his highly organized production methods fused art and commercial enterprise in a way that took Andy Warhol’s vision to a new level. While trained in the Japanese art of Nihonga, a highly regimented and traditional form of art, Murakami’s wholly unique and contemporary aesthetic moves seamlessly amongst diverse roles as artist, producer, theorist, curator, designer, businessman and celebrity, rendering him an unprecedented phenomenon in the global cultural scene. With his numerous collaborations with luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Murakami’s hybridized art not only put Japanese pop culture onto the global map of contemporary art but uses it to reference and embody the overwhelming phenomenon of cultural collisions occurring all over the world.
more at DORAEMON @ Sotheby’s site:
Dear readers of ART+CULTURE, you may say now, thx for some entertaining auction atmosphere. Yet, before I close, I would like to tell you the whole story, as we hereby caught a rare case of hypothetical manipulation in the contemporary art market with comprehensible evidences.
Collectors, art dealers and museum curators are constantly in a state of limbo concerning the “retail price” of an artist’s work.
The latest documented auction price helps to get a reference for all potential buyers involved.
Larry Gagosian is very much interested in elevating his artists’ prices. That’s one of his many jobs.
I remember Takashi publicly complaining, as his prices were too high, Japanese museums won’t buy his works at those elevated numbers.
!! Attention, the following sentences are of speculative character!!
Let’s focus a bit on these behavioural peculiarities regarding our new arty pet DORAEMON. Who could have been the secretive buyer at GAGOSIAN’s booth in Taipei, last year?
Assumption A: the “poor” guy, an unknown art flipper, probably with Asian background.
Assumption B: Gagosian’s staff or proxy.
Assumption C: Kaikai Kiki’s staff or proxy. Gagosian sees Murakami’s works sell.
Assumption D: Doraemon himself.
With assumption B, billionaire Larry could (but nobody knows) have easily “bought back” DORAEMON at Sotheby’s, with money taken from his “postage cash register”. In reality, and well documented, he did that already with Jeff Koons.
With assumption C, Murakami needed Gagosian’s “attention” for not being dropped off at the gallery’s artists’ list, as he, exactly two years ago, had been already kicked out by his former American gallery Blum & Poe.
Takashi Murakami Had Been Erased From American Gallery Blum & Poe’s Artists’ List
And/or: Triggering off Murakami’s DORAEMON branding strategy in the Asian art market, first via Taiwan’s art fair and later through Sotheby’s spring auction in China.
In fact, the Sotheby’s official hammer result means, every future collector of Murakami’s similar works has to pay the same price. Perhaps with a friendly discount of 10%, 20%, or (dealer’s price of) 25%. Depending on your “status”: first time collector, or a very good old client, or the dealer’s colleague. If you are on BLAC, no way to get a significantly good piece.
“Chatting out of the sewing box”… may I explain you that I have added 25% in France, because French collectors love to bargain. Less in Switzerland, Germany or Japan, where I put the right price.
There was a time, where you could buy on the last afternoon of the art fair some leftover works at international galleries with a 50% discount. Why? Because it would save them a lot of money concerning the expensive shipping costs back to the country of origin, which could also be the artist’s place. Even on that last day it meant a win-win-win situation. Happy artist, happy collector, happy art dealer.
Sotheby’s as “market maker”. In this way DORAEMON had been fixed with the low estimate of 2.800.000 HKD, 77 seconds later it sold for 4.410.000 HKD. If we subtract, let’s say, 20 percent, the new reference for a similar work by Murakami would be about 3.500.000 HKD, equivalent to 48.7 million Japanese Yen (4870万円) or 450.000 US$. That’s one facet of the play of the game in the contemporary art world.
To continue with my story, just by chance I saw a similar work, which had been sold directly by the artist or via Tokyo’s Perrotin gallery to a local collector. Your sharp eye probably remembers the work, as five months ago I did some name dropping regarding a new breed of Reiwa-collectors ニュー・令和コレクターズ with deep pockets.
ニュー・令和コレクターズ・オン・ザ・ホライゾン New Reiwa-Collectors On The Horizon
We recognise Murakami’s work at the wall of art collector KAWASAKI Yuichi’s 川崎裕一 home. See below pic.
川崎裕一コレクション KAWASAKI Yuichi Collection @ ［ゲーテ］雑誌 2021年2月号
Titled as “Ms. Flower and Her Children” it had been commissioned by Kawasaki (村上隆さんにお願いしていたコミッションワーク). (Nearly bankrupt) Takashi actually calls him on Instagram “my sponsor” and the “next Maezawa”, while sitting beside “bemused” Kawasaki.
Takashi Murakami’s commission work！！
Now comes the funny part, as a kind of cognitive dissonance, of this story. How much did KAWASAKI Yuichi pay for this commissioned work?
Obviously he doesn’t talk about money concerning his private deal with Takashi.
In this context I assume he checked my numbers from November 2018:
“New middle-sized paintings could cost between US$ 250.000 and 1 million.”
The Value of Murakami’s Works? An Unhappy MURAKAMI Takashi…
Let the cat out of the bag, my guess: about US$ 350.000 for MURAKAMI Takashi’s “Ms. Flower and Her Children” (2020). Equivalent to 3.8 million Japanese Yen, 3800万円. If my suggestion differs extremely, hey, gimme a call you guys, Takashi or Yuichi.
Since about three years I am watching Kawasaki from the sideline as he pro-actively buys paintings from young emerging artists, mainly Japanese. On Instagram he enthusiastically talks about the next auction event by going through the catalogue with a sip from the Corona beer bottle. Which I applaud, because in this relaxed mood, even the uninitiate can ask him any question and is learning several aspects about the purchase of contemporary art works. Creatio ex nihilo.
On a personal level, because of my age, I assume he won’t buy one of my paintings, even as the late art critic Satoru Nagoya in 2016 proclaimed: “Mario A, one of the most brilliantly gifted–or perhaps I should say, the single most brilliantly gifted––oil painting artist in Japan”.
Let’s give ドラえもん the final statement of today ;-)
“You shouldn’t be crying over those things that happened in the past. Think of this, why do you think your eyes are placed in front? That is for you to see what’s up ahead.”
21st of May 2021
ここに載せた写真とスクリーンショットは、すべて「好意によりクリエーティブ・コモン・センス」の文脈で、日本美術史の記録の為に発表致します。Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works photos: cccs courtesy creative common sense