Phillips Auctions Off Coveted Collectibles by KAWS and Takashi Murakami

Alongside masterpieces by big names like Zao Wou-ki, Zhang Xiaogang and Fang Lijun, Phillips’ Contemporary Art Evening Sale offered coveted collectibles by contemporary artists like KAWS and Takashi Murakami, whose works have enjoyed widespread popularity in the young generations.

Murakami is known for his motley of Neo-pop characters and motifs, often described as “eye candy. Drawing inspiration from anime, manga, otaku, popular culture, as well as his PhD in nihonga, Murakami’s lionised works bridge tradition and the worlds of contemporary art, design, animation, fashion and contemporary culture.

Offered at the sale was one of his works, 1960->2012. It exemplifies key characteristics that have allowed the artist to reach deification in some circles for his ability to simultaneously straddle East and West, old and new, mainstream and subculture. Created in the year following the disastrous Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, the present lot furthermore evokes the Buddhist concept Shogyo mujo connoting the transience of life.

Started with an opening bid of HK$4.2m, the painting was hammered down for HK$6m and sold for HK$7.3m (premium included).

Having grown from the culture of downtown Manhattan in the 1990s, KAWS’s cartoonish style is rooted in the artist’s early career who would mediate public advertisements with his own seamlessly brushstroke-free additions. The sale presented an interesting work from KAWS, Untitled, in which KAWS placing his signature X-ed eyes on one of the most absorbing personalities in contemporary culture. Rendered exclusively in enthralling matte red tones, Untitled exemplifies the artist’s position within the historical continuum that began with Pop Art, straddling the line between fine art and commerce. 

This lot ignited a strong bidding from buyers. It was finally hammered down for HK$4.3m and sold for HK$5.26m, exceeding its presale estimate of HK$2m-3m.

Two other works created by KAWS were also featured at the sale. The first one, Final Days, was made of Afrormosia wood. Featuring KAWS’s idolised alterations applied to a hatless Kurf, the present lot showcases the unmistakable crossed-out eyes, bones imitating hair and ears, distorted mouth and impeccable fabrication that characterise the artist’s signature work.

The auctioneer opened the bidding at HK$2m and brought the hammer down at HK$4.6m. Final Days was sold to the client represented by Robert Manley, Worldwide Co-Head, 20th Century and Contemporary Art.

Another one was FIVE YEARS LATER) COMPANION, created in 2008. This work is number 4 from an edition of 10 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by OHWOW Gallery. It was sold for HK$1.25m with premium included.


Takashi Murakami and KAWS (sorted by estimates)

Takashi Murakami. MPGMP, 1960->2012.

Lot no.: 34
Created in: 2012
Size: 200 x 160cm

  • Galerie Perrotin, Paris
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$5,000,000 - 7,000,000
Hammer price: HK$6,000,000
Price realised: HK$7,300,000

KAWS. Final Days.

Lot no.: 33
Created in: 2014
Size: 210 x 195 x 137cm

  • Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000
Hammer price: HK$4,600,000
Price realise: HK$5,620,000

KAWS. Untitled.

Lot no.: 42
Created in: 2009
Size: 182.9 x 182.9cm

  • Galerie Perrotin, Paris
  • Private Collection
  • Phillips, New York, 6 March 2014, Lot 3
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000
Hammer price: HK$4,300,000
Price realised: HK$5,260,000


Lot no.: 45
Created in: 2008
Size: 39.6 x 16.5 x 10.1cm

  • OHWOW Gallery, Los Angeles
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$500,000 - 700,000
Hammer price: HK$1,000,000
Price realised: HK$1,250,000


Auction summary

Auction house: Phillips Hong Kong
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale
Sale date: 2018/5/27
Lots offered: 70
Sold: 64
Unsold: 6
Sold by lot: 91%
Sale total: HK$233,598,750