Christie’s raised some eyebrows by including a Shiraga painting, BB56, in its evening sale with a $3-5m estimate. The painting had been bought in 2008 at Sotheby’s Paris for just a little less than €200,000 or about $300,000 on the day. Christie’s responds by confiding that their estimate is based upon private sales information.
Conveniently, news comes today that Mnuchin Gallery will be holding a show of Shiraga’s work in the late Winter of 2015. No doubt Robert Mnuchin is as curious to see what Christie’s Painting goes for as the consignor is:
Mnuchin Gallery is proud to announce an exhibition of major paintings by Kazuo Shiraga (1924 – 2008). Tracing the evolution of Shiraga’s signature “foot painting” method over his entire career, it will feature 15 examples spanning more than four decades from 1958 to 2000. It will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue authored by noted Gutai scholar Dr. Ming Tiampo. The exhibition will be on view March 2 – April 18, 2015.
Shiraga first embarked upon his experiments with foot painting in 1954, on a quest to articulate a radical individualism as a rejection of Japan’s wartime militarism. Throwing away his brushes and rejecting his hands as too trained, Shiraga began painting with his feet, which enabled a fresh and direct mode of expression. Starting with paper or canvas laid out on the floor, the artist would deposit copious amounts of oil paint on the surface, and paint with the movements of his bare feet, sometimes hanging from the ceiling by a rope. Shiraga went on to employ this method of painting for the rest of his career, declaring, “I have never doubted that ‘action painting’ is my expression, never stopped it. I will single-mindedly continue to paint my painting with a sincere desire that the pleasure of making a painting will be communicated to those who see it.” 1 While the palette and mood of these works evolved over time, they are united by a vigorous energy and a facture so dramatically rich and textured as to be almost sculptural.
A leading member of the Gutai Art Association, the most influential collective of avant-garde artists in postwar Japan, Shiraga is known not only for his innovations in action painting but also for his groundbreaking performances, such as Challenging Mud (1955), which predated Allan Kaprow’s Happenings in the United States and Europe. Shiraga’s work featured prominently in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2012-2013 exhibition, Tokyo 1955 – 1970: A New Avant-Garde and the Guggenheim’s 2013 exhibition, Gutai: Splendid Playground, co-curated by Dr. Tiampo.
Shiraga will be the subject of Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga, a two-person exhibition opening at the Dallas Museum of Art in February 2015.