If it could be said that Japan’s best-known sculptor, Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), passed the torch onto the next generation, it would likely have been into the hands of Kan Yasuda. While the largest concentration of Yasuda’s art is located at Arte Piazza Bibai, on Japan’s northern island Hokkaido (Yasuda’s homeland), in the UK his sculptures have been displayed at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, in Australia he has collaborated with architect Renzo Piano on art for a residential project, and his works have also been extensively shown worldwide, especially in Europe, as well as Japan.
Christie’s New York is now hosting the first show of Yasuda’s larger works in America, from Wednesday February 24 until Saturday March 26 – titled Touching Time. The exhibition of 15 sculptures focuses on monumental installations in marble and bronze (up to $600,000), but also includes smaller tabletop marbles (from $30,000), and is timed to coincide with Christie’s Asian art auctions.
One of Yasuda’s larger signature works on show, Myomu(first picture), dwarfs the viewer with its solid abstract form, the surface of which reflects everything around it in shadowy silver, while the bottom is burnished darker. By contrast, his Tenpi pieces (example in second picture) are solid, elongated discs whose surfaces are muted yet rich with a luxurious-looking patina – appearing so dense as to induce a great impression of weight on the senses.
Yasuda’s monumental works can each take years to finish. Many are curvaceously reminiscent of organic forms, but some are more angular. For the past 40 years the sculptor has worked from his studio near the hallowed Italian quarries of Pietrasanta, famous for being Michelangelo’s chosen source of Carrara marble. He also keeps a studio in Hokkaido. Despite the artist’s reluctance to shed light on any Japanese references in his works, preferring to focus on the direct influences he draws from Italy, his sculptures resonate with Asian art’s minimalist aesthetics. The artist has said that his sculptures “engrave the time of tranquil spirit”. Yet they can also convey a dynamism that feels accessible and almost interactive – characteristics proven by their popularity with the public, including children, in gardens and at museums.
Works from this Christie’s sale require glorious locations, ideally outdoors, while the smaller bronzes would look striking in minimalist interiors. Glamorous but simultaneously understated, these sculptures will appeal to collectors with an eye for the abstract, but who also have a yen for the sensual, poetic and postmodern.