Lot 1055
  • 1055

Nara Yoshitomo & Sugito Hiroshi

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 HKD
4,900,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Nara Yoshitomo & Sugito Hiroshi
  • Marianne
  • acrylic on canvas
signed in English, titled in English and Japanese and dated 2004 on the reverse, framed


Galerie Zink, Berlin
Private Collection
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 October 2014, lot 1054
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale


Germany, Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne, Yoshitomo Nara & Hiroshi Sugito: Over the Rainbow, 11 November 2004 - 13 February 2005; Germany, Düsseldorf, K21 Kunstammulung Nordrhein-Westfalen, 12 March - 29 May 2005, p. 11


Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works 1984 - 2010 Volume I, Bijitsu Shuppan Sha, Tokyo, Japan, 2011, p. 224

Catalogue Note

This work is accompanied with a certificate of autheticity issued by Galerie Zink and signed by the artists

Rainbows and Galaxies
Nara Yoshitomo & Sugito Hiroshi

The captivating, doe-eyed Marianne (Lot 1055) hails from Nara Yoshitomo and Sugito Hiroshi’s joint collaboration “Over the Rainbow” in 2004 – a body of around forty paintings that emanate the magical aura of the Land of Oz. With her strikingly lustrous eyes, Marianne witnesses not only a seminal artistic collaboration between master and student but also an important stylistic transition in how Nara depicted his subject’s eyes. In previous years Nara executed his character’s eyes in more simplistic and hard-edged forms. In contrast, Marianne’s prismatic, luminous pupils are technically superlative and wholly immersive in their ability to mesmerize and engulf the viewer. Commenting on the change, Nara once said: “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. [Later on,] I became more interested in expressing complex feelings in a more complex way”.1 Such a “more complex way” results in hypnotic, unblinking eyes that shine with the shimmering iridescence of many galaxies, a feature that became quintessential in Nara’s later portraits.

Another important stylistic development evidenced in Marianne is the auratic background comprised of cobalt helixes and vermilion strokes. Whereas earlier Nara portraits were executed against plain flat backgrounds in single pastel hues, the present lot’s warm-hued layered background is at once mysterious and enigmatically alluring, beckoning us into the depths of Marianne’s magical world. Meanwhile, the figure in the foreground is bathed in a softly glowing spotlight, rendered all the more ethereal and luminous against the dark shadows beyond. Such an atmospheric aesthetic would become emblematic in Nara’s later works; Marianne is thus an early example of a critical development in the artist’s era-defining oeuvre.

Nara and Sugito, a former student of Nara that is eleven years his junior, first met in 1986 when Sugito came under the tutelage of Nara. The two completed their first artistic collaboration in 1997 and immediately developed the idea for the joint exhibition and book project “Over the Rainbow” in the same year. The project was eventually realized in 2004 when the two were invited by the Austrian Galerie Belvedere to live and work in Vienna for three months. The paintings that comprise “Over the Rainbow”, which references the famous song written for The Wizard of Oz (1939) by Broadway musicians Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, documents the results of their stay in Vienna as well as the transformative encounter between two friends and outstanding artists: the unique iconic portraiture of Nara and the delicate enchanting landscapes of Sugito that combine influences of Western painting with classical Japanese Nihonga. An internationally acclaimed artist in his own right, Sugito has exhibited extensively worldwide, including at the eighth International Istanbul Biennial, the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford and Ohara Museum of Art in Tokyo.

In light of the direct allusion to The Wizard of Oz, Marianne’s ginger hair is reminiscent of Dorothy’s orange braids. The painting exudes the hazy atmosphere of a fairytale or a childhood dream, evoking inner voyages buried deep within one’s subconscious memories whilst hinting at deeper existential truths. As Michael Darling observes, Nara’s works “tantalizes our senses and imaginations, while at the same time honing our understanding of the complexities of the contemporary condition”.2 Marianne thus presents a vital ambiguity that is, at its root, the key to Nara’s legendary oeuvre. Sugary sweet yet bordering on the ominous, simple and accessible yet veiled and deeply enigmatic, Nara’s works ultimately provokes in each viewer a profound introspection—a subconscious understanding or resonance that childhood never truly leaves us. The artist himself once said: “Rather than merely offering the work for the viewers to see face-on, I want to trigger their imaginations. This way, each individual can see my work with his or her own unique, imaginative mind”.3 Elsewhere, Nara commented: “I often hear many people say while looking at my work, ‘Oh, this is me!’ Therefore, my works are ‘a bit like me’ and ‘a bit like you’ [...] and yet each of them has its own self, being ‘a work of art for its own sake”.4

1 “An Interview with Yoshitomo Nara”, Asymptote Journal, Hideo Furukawa, moderated by Sayuri Okamoto, November 2013
2 M. Darling, “Yoshitomo Nara,” Frieze, Issue 37, November-December 1997, n.p.
3 Y. Nara in conversation with M. Chin, “A Conversation With The Artist,” M. Matsui, Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool, exh. cat., M. Chui and M. Tezuka (eds.), Asia Society Museum, 2010, p. 179
4 The artist quoted in exh. cat. Nara Yoshitomo: a bit like you and me..., Japan, 2012, p. 13