With over twenty exhibitions across the globe in the last three years alone, Nara’s popularity has no doubt far surpassed many Japanese contemporary artists working today. Initially recognized as part of the Neo-Pop movement along with Takashi Murakami during the 1990s, for over two decades, the iconic images of cute yet devilish girls and sleepy-eyed dogs produced by the artist have become an indisputable pillar in the paradigm of Japanese contemporary art. While loneliness and music are often cited as a source of inspiration behind the creation of these rebellious children, a compelling part of his work is sentimentally devoted to the free spirit of youth and a rejection of reality. Born in Hirosaki, a city in the Aomori Prefecture hours away from Tokyo, Yoshitomo Nara obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, before attending Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in Germany in 1988. Though he was frequently associated with Takashi Murakami and the Superflat movement in the 1990s, the artist has continually emphasized the importance of individual experience and personal sentiments in his artistic practice rather than strictly following art historical theories. As he commented in an interview in 2012, “Overseas, everyone started to read the work within the context of Murakami’s Superflat theory. In a way, they can be explained with that, so that’s fine, but for me they were much more personal. All the children and animals depicted came from inside me, not from a theory.” (Edan Corkill, “Yoshitomo Nara Puts the Heart Back in Art”, The Japan Times, 2012) This articulation of the artist’s own emotional disposition has not only contributed to the immense popularity of the iconic solitary child, but also created a unique resonance with the masses. Cup Kids, a rare major sculpture by the iconic artist, sees him at his best, inspiring wonderment in every viewer that is immersed in its mischievous grip.
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