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Trend in sight

The Gutai movement, through the global market’s perspective

Art Market | In December 1954, in a country still shaken by the trauma of the Second World War, Jiro Yoshihara (1905-1972) founded the Gutai movement around a gathering of roughly fifteen young artists. The movement’s longevity and its members’ plastic proposals made it the driving force of the Japanese avant-garde and one of the pioneering artistic movements of the 20th century. Despite its well-established reputation on the international art scene, its impact on the art market has only been recent.

Vue de l’exposition ‘‘Gutai: Splendid Playground‘‘ au Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 15 février – 8 mai, 2013 © Photo: David Heald
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Vue de l’exposition "Gutai: Splendid Playground" au Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 15 février – 8 mai, 2013
© Photo: David Heald

An analysis of auctions involving first generation Gutai artists is illustrative of a clear upward trend in terms of volume and value of sales, particularly since 2014. Of 87 lots by Shozo Shimamoto (1928-2013) at auction in the 2008-2013 period, 52 were bought-in (remained unsold) and 20 were sold under the low estimate. Just a few years later, between 2014 and 2015, a radical shift took place whereby 48 Shimamoto pieces were sold for a total amount of $5,385,921. Likewise, from 2014 to the present day, 86 lots by Atsuko Tanaka (1932-2005) were auctioned for in excess of $13 million. This is well above the 2008-2013 period, when 72 lots by the same artist were sold for around $2 million.

Shozo Shimamoto lançant des bouteilles en verre de peinture sur une toile, ''2e Exposition Gutai'', Tokyo, 1956 © Courtesy Shozo Shimamoto, the former members of the Gutai Art Association, the Museum of Osaka University
Shozo Shimamoto lançant des bouteilles en verre de peinture sur une toile, ''2e Exposition Gutai'', Tokyo, 1956
© Courtesy Shozo Shimamoto, the former members of the Gutai Art Association, the Museum of Osaka University

In the image of the sales records made by the Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008) pieces ‘Gekidou Suru Aka’ (1969) and ‘BB56’ (1977) – sold respectively by Sotheby’s Paris for $5,320,120 and by Christie’s New York for $4,869,000 – we have witnessed a rush towards historical works from the 1960s and 1970s. This can be seen in the work of Sadamasa Motonaga (1922-2011) of this period, all of which we have seen sold at auction for amounts above $200,000. Another revealing illustration of this trend is the rising prices of works that have been presented several times at auction over the years, irrespective of the Gutai artist. ‘White Circle’ (1969) by Jiro Yoshihara, for example, was sold in 2008 by Shinwa Art Auction for $61,062, and then resold in 2012 for $208,320 (reaching a rate of change of +241%).

Furthermore, we are witnessing a growth in leading exhibitions of the Gutai movement. Recent examples of this are “A Visual Essay on Gutai” at Hauser & Wirth New York and “Gutai : A Splendid Playground” at the Guggenheim Museum. The rising presence of Gutai artwork in international museums and galleries seems to be correlated with the recent awakening of the art market towards what is one of the founding movements of contemporary art.

This article is a summary of a qualitative and quantitative study conducted for the Observatoire de l’art contemporain. The complete analysis is available on request.

Vincent Kozsilovics
Publié le 12/11/2016
Copyright © Observatoire de l'art contemporain - Tous droits réservés
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Version française

Vue de l’exposition “Gutai: Splendid Playground“ au Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 15 février – 8 mai, 2013 © Photo: David Heald Jiro Yoshihara, fondateur du Gutai, devant l’une de ses peintures en 1970. © Courtesy Otsuji Seiko Collection, Musashino Art University Museum & Library, Tokyo. Jiro Yoshihara, Please Draw Freely, 1956. vue exterieure de l’expotision Gutai Art Exhibition, Ashiya Park, 1956 © Yoshihara Shinichiro and the former members of the Gutai Art Association, courtesy Museum of Osaka University Kazuo Shiraga dans son studio, 1960 © Courtesy of Amagasaki Cultural Center Tanaka Atsuko, Work (Bell), 1955 © The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund Montanaga Sadamasa, Work (Water), 1956. Vue extérieure de l’exposition Gutai Art Exhibition, Ashiya Park, Ashiya, 1956 © Motonaga Nakatsuji Etsuko, courtesy Motonaga Document Research Office Gutai members in Pinacotheca’s front yard, Osaka, ca. 1964 © The former members of the Gutai Art Association, courtesy Museum of Osaka University Shozo Shimamoto, Palazzo Ducale Performance Photos, 2008 © Copyright ABC-ARTE Gallery Genova Shozo Shimamoto, Palazzo Ducale 29, 2008 © Copyright ABC-ARTE Gallery Genova Vue de l’exposition ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ à la galerie Hauser & Wirth New York, 69 th Street, 2012 © Photo: Genevieve Hanson

Vue de l’exposition "Gutai: Splendid Playground" au Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 15 février – 8 mai, 2013
© Photo: David Heald

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