From tradition to innovation: Japan’s Whitestone Gallery steers New Art Est-Ouest Auctions to new heights

New Art Est-Ouest Auctions charts a singularly prescient path in the art market. Founded in 1984, the auction house was the first and oldest Japan-based international auction house. Over the decades, Est-Ouest Auctions has borne witness to numerous important milestones in the history of the art market in Japan and the West – a testament to its namesake “Est-Ouest”, which translates to “East-West”.

Photographed in Tokyo All Genre Auction in November 2023

In 2021, when New Art Holdings, founder of Japan’s illustrious Whitestone Gallery, announced its shrewd strategic decision to acquire Est-Ouest Auctions, it was a match made in heaven. As one of the most prestigious galleries established in Japan in 1967, Whitestone Gallery, founded by Mr. Yukio Shiraishi, has been a distinguished leading pioneer in the Japanese and global art scene for over half a century.

Discerning and uniquely global and outward-looking in its vision, Whitestone Gallery established the Whitestone Art Foundation as well as the Karuizawa New Art Museum in Karuizawa in 2012 and went on to open gallery outposts in Hong Kong (2015 and 2016), Taipei (2017), Seoul (2023), Singapore (2023) and Beijing (2023).

As such, New Art Holding’s acquisition of Est-Ouest Auctions and the subsequent establishment of New Art Est-Ouest Auctions represent a momentous merging of the unique history and unparalleled expertise of two legendary institutions that are Japanese in root and tradition, yet global and contemporary in outlook and vision.

Karuizawa New Art Museum

Most notably, Whitestone Gallery founder Mr. Yukio Shiraishi’s unmatched expertise in the scholarship and market of post-war Japanese art, such as artists from the Gutai movement, as well as in the oeuvre of Yayoi Kusama, continues to break new ground and influence tastes and trends in the regional and global art market.

This past May, New Art Est-Ouest Auctions hosted the world’s largest-scale Yayoi Kusama auction to date, offering 80 works encompassing the iconic artist’s paintings, sculptures, bronze works, and prints ranging from her beginning years in the 1950s to later creations in the 2000s.

A major highlight of this unprecedented auction was the monumental Infinity-Nets (OQABT) which measured over 5.5 meters long. Apart from being one of the largest paintings from Kusama’s era-defining series of Infinity Nets ever to appear at auction, the painting was on view at M+’s celebrated large-scale retrospective of Yayoi Kusama just before the time of auction, which is a testament to the museum-quality caliber of works offered by New Art Est-Ouest Auctions. 

Lot 75 | Yayoi Kusama | Handbag 

This December in Hong Kong, New Art Est-Ouest Auctions will continue to offer magnificent examples of works by Yayoi Kusama.

A top highlight is the rare and exquisite Handbag, an acrylic painting executed in 1985, which combines two of Kusama’s most iconic motifs, the net pattern and the polka dot, into the beautiful timeless form of a handbag complete with a butterfly clasp.

The 1980s period is an undervalued period in Kusama’s career. After one and a half decades abroad in the United States and Europe, Kusama returned to Japan in 1973. Over the next decade, Kusama explored new mediums such as ceramics, watercolors, pastels, and collages, rebuilding her artistic path and recovering from psychological struggles.

By 1982, Kusama had re-emerged onto the art scene with a successful solo show in Tokyo; and in 1989, she was honored with her first New York retrospective. The present Handbag, painted in 1985, was created during Kusama’s important phase of re-emergence and road towards success and triumph.

Importantly, motifs such as high heels and bags in Kusama’s paintings have proved to be highly sought-after by collectors within the market, particularly amongst Asian collectors. The image for the present Handbag is later used as the image of print works that are high in demand. 

Lot 76 | Takao Iijima (Ay-O) | Olympic Yacht

The cover lot of New Art Est-Ouest Auctions’ December auctions is the monumental, dynamic and ebullient Olympic Yacht by Japanese artist Takao Iijima, better known by his artist name Ay-O.

The timing is extraordinarily astute, coinciding with the opening of yet another blockbuster institutional exhibition at M+, “Ay-O, Hong Hong Hong”, the artist’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong opening to the public on December 15, 2023.

Born in 1931, Ay-O grew up in Japan during the Second World War. Upon moving to New York in 1958, he became associated with the international avant-garde art group Fluxus and worked closely with fellow Fluxus artists including George Maciunas, Emmett Williams, Dick Higgins and Nam June Paik, who was Ay-O’s roommate at one point.

In Ay-O’s signature rainbow works, the burst of colors and gradated hues emanate joy, light, and sensory overload, such that viewers are almost physically feeling the colors.

The works radiate a kinetic energy that results in a pseudo-3D experience, a testament to Ay-O’s persistence in pushing the limits of the dimensionality of a flat surface. Even today, in a hyper-tech world where our eyes are used to computer screens and smart phones, Ay-O’s inimitable creations prompt an utterly unique visual experience through eyesight alone.

Lot 36 | Yang Yongliang | Artificial Wonderland II – Xishan Travel

In a resounding echo of New Art Est-Ouest Auctions’ ethos of merging tradition and innovation, Chinese contemporary artist Yang Yongliang’s Artificial Wonderland II – Xishan Travel from 2014 combines classical aesthetics with modern techniques.

Trained in traditional Chinese painting, Yang wields a diverse toolbox of contemporary mediums encompassing photography, video and installation, forging a unique bridge between old and new, East and West. 

Meanwhile, Sky in Venice: Blue River by Japanese artist Miwa Komatsu is an archetypal painting by the artist featuring her signature mythical beast.

With a deep connection to nature from a young age, Komatsu’s practice draws on traditional Japanese beliefs about spirits in the natural world. With a vivid, dazzling palette, Komatsu brings to life the komainu, a lion-dog known for its protective powers.

Her paintings exude a unique energy and life force, offering a glimpse into Komatsu’s distinctively spiritual yet contemporary worldview.

Lot 37 | Miwa Komatsu | Sky in Venice: Blue River

Mr. Yukio Shiraishi, Chairman and President of New Art Holdings, says: “New Art Est-Ouest Auctions continues to demonstrate that we are ahead of the curve and shaping trends in Asia and beyond. We are dedicated to championing and offering Japanese and Asian artists to the global art market. The works on offer in this auction include significant established names as well as emerging or under-represented figures in the art scene today. I believe that the works will resonate with the global audience.”

New Art Est-Ouest Auctions invites art enthusiasts to indulge in the pinnacle of artistic brilliance at its upcoming Contemporary and Modern Art Auction on 20 December 2023. Held at the esteemed H Queen's, this highly-anticipated event promises an exquisite display that will leave attendees spellbound. 

Mr. Yukio Shiraishi, Chairman and President of New Art Holdings

Artspace in Singapore

Following this remarkable event, a groundbreaking joint auction awaits in collaboration with 33 Auction on 20 January 2024, at Singapore's distinguished Mandarin Oriental.

This momentous occasion coincides with the revered Singapore Art Week, providing a global platform to unveil a diverse repertoire of boundary-pushing artworks by renowned artists such as Nyoman Masriadi, Yayoi Kusama, and Liu Ye.

With an unwavering commitment to inclusivity in the art world, New Art Est-Ouest Auctions extends an invitation to individuals from all walks of life to embrace the epitome of artistic brilliance. Discover the untapped potential of becoming a collector and contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of this dynamic artistic community.

Auction Details: 

Auction House: New Art Est-Ouest Auctions

Sale: Contemporary and Modern Art Auction
Date and Time: 20 December 2023 | 6pm (Hong Kong Local Time)

  • 16 - 18 December 2023 | 11am - 7pm
  • 19 December 2023 | 11am - 4pm

Venue: 7/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queens Road Central, Central, Hong Kong

Sale: Joint Auction in Singapore (N.S Auction)
Date and Time: 20 January 2024 | 6pm (Singapore Local Time)
Venue: Mandarin Oriental, 5 Raffles Ave., Singapore 039797