Art Index: Yoshitomo Nara
Article written by Alessandro Berni on December 4, 2020
“Today I said, 'I really don't care.' Yesterday, in a similar situation, I said, 'It's none of your business?' Before that, it was 'What the hell are you trying to say?' And before that, 'Leave me alone' ...Sometimes I spit out words like 'Shit!' 'Damn!' 'Jesus!' The air vibrates and roars. If you listen closely, you can hear flames of anger. It is like a dragon belching out fire. Whenever I spit out these words, I feel a little better, and it helps a little, if just a little, to put out the fire.”
Yoshitomo Nara (奈良美智, Hirosaki, 1959) is a contemporary artist who first came to light in the context of Japan's pop art movement. He is best known for his paintings of children that hide a veil of mischief and danger behind their seemingly innocent exterior and has also produced acclaimed sculptures and drawings. The style of his artwork is often associated with pop culture, although it equally engages with Japanese visual traditions and western modernism.
Yoshitomo has cited his childhood love of comics and Japanese anime as the main influence of his art. He has also often referenced punk rock music he listened to during his youth as an inspiration, which can be traced back to the rebellious and violent atmosphere of some of his works.
As noted in Ocula’s bio on the artist:
[...] the most significant influence, however, is probably the postwar upbringing which profoundly touched his way of seeing things, and consequently his artistic life. He grew up at a time when Japan was experiencing a flood of Western mass culture: comics, Walt Disney cartoons, and rock music are just a few examples. The son of two members of the working class, he also lived an isolated childhood in the countryside, often left alone with little to do but explore his young imagination.
Nara's portraits present a fusion of old and new traditions. The child's facial features—widely spaced eyes, stubby nose, slit mouth—are adopted from traditional Japanese Otafuku and Okame theatrical masks, while the poses are associated with anime and manga, and the overall compositions are reminiscent of Edo period ukiyo-e woodblock prints.
The artist's sculptures, which for the most part present the child in three-dimensional form, are often coated in a liquid metal that cracks like the glaze on Song dynasty Chinese ceramics (https://ocula.com/artists/yoshitomo-nara/).
“Because of the imagery that I usually work with in my paintings, imagery that some people misinterpret as being manga—like, not a lot of people would see this spiritual side of my work,[...] The fact is I have never once said that I’ve been influenced by Japanese manga. For a very long time I have created my art from a spiritual point of view. It is filled with religious and philosophical considerations.”
Yoshitomo has exposed his works in various museums around the world.
Select solo exhibitions, include: Walk On, Works by Yoshitomo Nara, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, USA (2000); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA (2000); PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, USA (2001); Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, USA/Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, USA/ Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, USA/ San Jose Museum of Art, USA/ The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, USA (throughout 2004/2005); Moonlight Serenade, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan (2006); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts, UK (2008); Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, USA (2009). Select group exhibitions include: Neo Japan- Japanese Art Now, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (2001); Babel 2002, National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea, Seoul, Korea (2002); The Galleries Show 2002, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2002); YOKOHAMA 2005 International Triennial of Contemporary Art, Yokohama, Japan (2005); Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2006); Pretty Baby, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, USA (2007); Rites de Passage, Schunck Glaspaleis, Heerlen, Netherlands; Walking in My Mind, The Hayward Gallery, London, England/ Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France (2009). His works are in the public collections of numerous institutions which include: Aomori Museum of Art, Japan, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York; The British Museum, London, England; Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga, Spain; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan and Neues Museum, Germany.
According to Artprice.net price’s turnover in 2019 is $85,101,413 with the last peak in price dated the same year.
Most of his works were sold in the range of $10,000-$50,000.
The oldest auction result ever registered on the website for an artwork by this artist is a drawing-watercolor sold in 2000, at Christie's , and the most recent auction result is a sculpture-volume sold in 2020. Artprice.com's price levels for this artist are based on 3,678 auction results. Especially: print-multiple, drawing-watercolor, painting, sculpture-volume, objects, photography, ceramic, tapestry, audiovisual-multimedia, furniture.
Various pieces by the artist are currently available in various auction houses.
From 24 Nov 2020 to 11 Dec 2020 Christie's will auction various pieces with an estimate sale between the $ 7,000 - 8,000.