Lot 193
  • 193

Yoshitomo Nara

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Yoshitomo Nara
  • Melting Moon
  • fiberglass
  • 189 by 189 by 52cm.; 74 3/8 by 74 3/8 by 20 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 2002.


Private Collection, Europe


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is warmer. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Extremely close inspection reveals some very light and unobtrusive handling marks in isolated places consistent with previous installation of the work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Distinguished for his imagery of universal themes such as youth and childhood, Yoshitomo Nara has created one of the most remarkable and copious careers among Japanese artists today. At once impelling feelings of both isolation and togetherness, Melting Moon presents the disembodied heads of six figures, resembling those of his iconic ‘little pilgrims’, meandering within a dreamlike realm. Featured recurrently within the artist’s oeuvre, the little pilgrims appear like an army of dreaming sleepwalkers with their heads leaning back and closed eyes, moving determinedly but without knowing where to. Lost in thought, there is an inevitable connection between all of them and one cannot but have the impression that they are wordlessly exchanging thoughts as they float in legion on the plated surface.

The present work induces a sense of muted dread; it touches the collective nerve of our infantile memories of the world as huge and unknowable, infinite and mysterious, a feeling that is further emphasised by the title’s celestial scope. Nara’s reference to the moon further invites the viewer to abandon their thoughts and immerse themselves within the cosmic realm of the little pilgrims, perched above us and seemingly disconnected from earth. While the slick glossiness of the sculpture is characteristically Pop, the genuine depiction of the universal theme of youth leaves us with a deeper, and more personal experience of the emotion at the core of the artist’s depictions. As expressed by Kristin Chambers, “through the faces of his subjects, Nara invites us to linger, to leave our rules at the door and enter the more fluid and uninhibited world of children” (Kristin Chambers quoted in: Exh. Cat., Cleveland, Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Yoshitomo Nara; Nothing Ever Happens, 2004-05, p. 26).

Nara was born in Hirosaki, a city in the Aomori Prefecture hours away from Tokyo, in 1959. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music before attending Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in Germany in 1988. Growing up in a post-war Japan that was effectively occupied by the US, Nara’s formative years were deeply influenced by American culture and ideals, particularly forms of entertainment such as Walt Disney and Warner Brothers, whose cartoons provided much inspiration for Nara’s renowned childish aesthetic. The artist is frequently associated with artist Takashi Murakami and the Superflat movement of the 1990s, and while he has worked alongside contemporaries in both East and West, Nara emphasises the importance of individual experience and personal sentiments in his artistic practice rather than strictly following art historical norms and theories. As expressed by the artist himself “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” (Yoshitomo Nara quoted in: Edan Corkill, 'Yoshitomo Nara Puts the Heart Back in Art', The Japan Times, 20 July 2012, online). The articulation of Nara’s own emotional disposition has created a unique resonance with the viewers, who are invited to project themselves onto the work and recall the intensity of the feelings of childhood. Irresistibly adorable and overwhelmingly charming, the present work is archetypal Nara; it bleeds with a range of emotions that are simultaneously universal and specific, filled with a spiritual purity that is both wonderful yet vulnerable, defiantly shattering the rigid boundaries set within the contemporary society we live in.