Lot 1061
  • 1061

Nara Yoshitomo

10,000,000 - 15,000,000 HKD
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  • Nara Yoshitomo
  • Untitled
  • acrylic on canvas
signed in Japanese and dated 2007 on the reverse, framed


Galerie Zink, Munich
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Netherlands, The Hague, GEM, Museum of Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + graf, 2 June – 28 October, 2007
UK, Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + Graf, 12 June - 26 October, 2008
Iceland, Reykjavík Art Museum, The Curated Room in Iceland - Yoshitomo Nara + YNG, 17 September, 2009 - 3 January, 2010


Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool by Melissa Chiu and Miwako Tezuka, Asia society Museum, New York, USA, 2010, p. 178 (installation view)
Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works 1984 - 2010
, Bijutsu Shuppan Sha, Tokyo, Japan, 2011, p. 209
Nara 48 Girls, Chikuma Shobo, Japan, 2011, unpaginated
Yoshitomo Nara: Self-selected Works, Paintings, Seigensha, Kyoto, Japan, April, 2015, p. 126

Catalogue Note

The Gaze: Galaxies in Eyes
Nara Yoshitomo

“I am an amateur in a way. Being an amateur gives you the strength to unconditionally love creation. That is the most important thing.” – Nara Yoshitomo

“I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!” Such were the words uttered by the boy who refused to grow up—the young, unaging and rebellious protagonist of J.M. Barrie’s seminal works, Peter Pan. Peter’s emphatic resolve to remain a child; his championing of childhood; his magical entourage of fairies, pirates and mermaids; as well as the mystical aura of Neverland, are all elements of the timeless and much-loved series. Today, more than a century after Barrie’s novels were written, a similarly magical and wistful spirit can be felt in the artistic language of a renowned Japanese artist: Nara Yoshitomo, our modern day Peter Pan.

Nara was born in 1959 in Hirosaki in the Aomori Prefecture. His formative years were marked—if not marred—by intense feelings of isolation and loss, sentiments so penetrating that they would repeatedly resurface in his later years as an adult artist. Born to emotionally distant parents in post-war Japan and growing up as the youngest of three sons by a drastic age difference, Nara’s childhood was for the most part spent alone. Nara once admitted in an interview: “When you are a kid, you are too young to know you are lonely, sad, and upset… Now I know I was.” Transforming his intense feelings into art, Nara immortalised his loneliness in endless portraits of young solitary children, all of which are set against barren nebulous landscapes.

The present lot, Untitled (Lot 1061), was executed in 2007 and displays an important transition in how Nara depicted his subject’s eyes. Strikingly clear and brilliantly lustrous, the prismatic, watery pupils in Untitled are almost immersive in their ability to mesmerize and engulf the viewer—a drastic development from Nara’s previously more simply executed eyes. Commenting on the change, Nara admitted: “They say human eyes are the mirror of the soul, and I used to draw them too carelessly. Say, to express the anger, I just drew some triangular eyes. I drew obviously-angry eyes, projected my anger there, and somehow released my pent-up emotions. About ten years ago, however, I became more interested in expressing complex feelings in a more complex way.”1

This “more complex way” results in eyes that shine with the shimmering iridescence of many galaxies, a feature that became quintessential in his later works. Untitled also bears an uncanny resemblance in atmosphere to Amedeo Modigliani’s later paintings of young girls. Nara has publicly admitted his life-long admiration of Modigliani’s portrait works, and images of Nara’s studio reveal that the Modigliani postcard is often displayed as an inspiration for the artist. Known for his development of the modernist style, Modigliani’s oeuvre featured characters with exaggerated elongated features, which many have come to understand as the artist’s meditations on the illnesses in humanity drawn from his own ailment-laden life. In many ways, the girl’s plainness and somberness are precisely the characteristics that make her relatable to viewers, constituting a ubiquitous representation of youth—albeit one with a hint of sadness.

Nara's re-examination of figurative painting, unique reworking of traditional Japanese forms and seamless unification of Eastern and Western themes captured the hearts of devoted fans across the world. Since his major solo show in 1995, “In the Deepest Puddle”, at SCAI the Bathhouse in Tokyo, Nara’s position as one of the most prominent living Japanese artists has steadily and consistently solidified. His rise to prominence accelerated even more after his milestone solo exhibition “I DON’T MIND IF YOU FORGET ME” (2001) kicked off at the Yokohama Museum of Art and toured around 4 other locations in Japan. Aside from a slew of significant international group shows, Nara’s repertoire of solo exhibitions includes shows at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, as well as the Aomori Museum of Art. The Museum of Modern Art was also responsible for buying two major collections of Nara’s works in the early 2000s. In spite of all this, Nara’s artwork remains refreshingly accessible to all age groups and genders regardless of nationality or background culture; and today the artist continues to capture and reproduce magical moments of childhood by filling canvases with lonely large-headed girls with big eyes.

1 “An Interview with Yoshitomo Nara”, Asymptote Journal, Hideo Furukawa, moderated by Sayuri Okamoto, November 2013