AYA TAKANO - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips
  • “When I was a kid, I daydreamed and stayed in my fantasy land by reading books and mangas all the time. I hated most designs of devices and buildings and I still do. I aspired to freedom of spirit and I was very different from others.” 
    — Aya Takano


    The present work exhibited during Galerie Perrotin , Aya Takano - The Jelly Civilization Chronicle, 17 March – 13 May 2017
    ©2021 Aya Takano/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


    Aya Takano’s signature pastel colour palette and whimsical dreamscapes draw intimately from her upbringing in Japan. Packed to the brim with references as variegated as ukiyo-e, Gustav Klimt, manga, Dutch still life paintings, Takano’s works—close cousins of the Superflat movement—exist in a realm entirely of her own creation, in what the artist has coined a sort of Jellyfish paradise. Having been subject of two solo shows this year alone, Takano’s fanciful planets are permanent fixtures within the contemporary art universe.


    To Neverland

    For as long as she can remember, Aya Takano has wanted to become an artist. An adept painter, illustrator, sci-fi writer and manga artist, Takano immersed herself in science fiction and the world of manga and anime, creating her own fantastical reality, carving out an illusory realm within the confines of fine art. Her stylistic proximity to Superflat can be attributed to her affiliation with Kaikai Kiki, the artistic production studio created in 2001 by Takashi Murakami: as the founder of the Superflat art movement and Takano’s mentor, Murakami has inspired the artist to create her own unique painting style.


    Interview with Aya Takano


    Notably, Takano is not that fond of gravity, finding it too realistic, constrained and earth-bound. She aims to creates ethereal, dreamy landscapes, places to which she can escape from the discomfort of the dystopic confines of the real world, preferring to create galaxies that go beyond the common good and evil. In most of her artwork, exotic animals and landforms combined with an urban backdrop are common themes. Her works have surrealistic undertones and seem to refuse logical and gravitational conventions: her troupe of characters often float atop buildings, crawl amongst stars, or morph into half-animal humanoids.


    “If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may see at times a shapeless pool of lovely pale colours suspended in the darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool begins to take shape, and the colours become so vivid that with another squeeze they must go on fire.” 
     — Quoted from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan

    Perhaps most striking in Takano’s works are her iconic wide-eyed girl-women and their androgynous bodies, all of whom, in their refusal to grow up, populate Takano’s paintings in their prepubescent, childlike forms. These figures tither at the turning point between childhood and adulthood, and often evoke erotic undertones hinting at impertinence in the face of maturity, while concurrently challenging the notions of innocence itself. It is evident that the artist is inspired by Shunga, a kind of ukiyo-e erotic art from Edo period, drawing from this era for her sources in erotica, but perhaps the ever-young characters who exist in her works have more to do with anime.


    An entire art form which grew out of post-war Japan, anime became popular thanks to the likes of cartoonists such as Osamu Tezuka, who popularised the now characteristic art style featuring large emotive eyes and warped bodily proportions. It is a common thread, too, in anime for characters to remain infantile, as even adults are often presented in a hyper-kawaii manner, scorning adulthood, and Astroboy immediately comes to mind.



     TV Series Opening of Osamu Tezuka’s beloved creation Astroboy, aired in 1963



    When taken within this context, Takano’s works join many other artistic creations that investigate the threshold between childhood and adulthood—and perhaps also the reluctance to cross from one side to the other. Though Peter Pan and Astroboy are immediate examples, Takano’s art perhaps more closely resembles fellow Japanese contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara’s in this aspect, where her protagonists are eternally housed within the chrysalis of childhood and wonder. Thus, in her deliberate employment of soft pastel colours (to be seen in tandem with the softness of childhood) it is no wonder that the artist names Gustav Kilmt amongst her sources of inspiration. One recalls Klimt’s famous Mäda Primavesi, painted in 1912-13 to immortalise the titular little girl, whose defiant stance conveys a remarkable sense of strength and confidence for a precocious nine year old. The world is undoubtedly her oyster and the future is hers to forge. Much in the same way, Takano aims to seek self-discovery and freedom within her works, and to attain a certain form of transcendence; to exist according to her own terms.




    Gustav Klimt, Mäda Primavesi, 1912-13
    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    Seeking Refuge in a Jelly World


    Following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Takano began to shift her work towards depictions of nature in a stark reassessment of her life and practice. Instead of indulging herself solely in a sci-fi world, the startling new realities post-disaster jolted Takano to a start, and she began pursuing a new artistic quest in a more humble and spiritual way in reverence ofnature and human life.

    “…everything is made of a jelly-like soft substance which will eventually dissolve into the soil.” 
    — Aya Takano

    In In the Lab (the Birth of Jelly), the artist’s iconic pig-tailed adolescent girl reappears with her wide eyes, hidden behind a pair of laboratory goggles, donning an emblematic uniform. The scene is a fever dream from within a high-school lab: she holds in her hand a test tube, sitting at a bench strewn with a pippet, Bunsen burner, microscope, glass apparatus, as an anatomical torso-mannequin almost comically looks on in the background, leaning against a chalkboard with mathematical scribblings. The image is ostensibly entirely normal and yet at the centre of the work, within the test tube itself is a blob of animated jelly: presumably the birth referenced in the work’s title. The tiny being is amorphous, wide-eyed, gazing at the outside world..


    Within this scene, Takano depicts an ordinary picture of a high school girl’s school life, and yet a surreal and bizarre atmosphere bubbles underneath. This pseudo-surrealistic scape is not unlike the works of Magritte and Dalí, though somehow still nestles against reality in its evocation of the canon of still life: indeed typical of all of Takano’s psychedelic, sci-fi inspired works. In the words of the artist, ‘Science-fiction…made me realise there is an existence beyond reality, something that transcends my existence.’ i




    Left:  René Magritte, Le Temps Menaçant (Threatening Weather), 1929
    Collection of the Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art, Edinburgh
    © 2021 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    Right: David Teniers the Younger, The Alchemist, circa 1651-56
    Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

    Collector’s Digest 


    Born in 1976 in Saitama, Japan, Aya Takano now lives and works in Japan. Represented by Kaikai Kiki, Takano has held several solo exhibitions with the gallery including beginning, liminal, ego (2021); Let's make a universe a better place (2020); Union Mystica (2019); and The Jelly Civilization Chronical (2017). Her work has been collected and exhibited within notable institutions such as the the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.




    Aya Takano, I like the hollows of the buildings, 2003
    Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles 
    ©2021 Aya Takano/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


    i Aya Takano, quoted in Jennifer Higgie, ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ (TBC)

    • Provenance

      Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Galerie Perrotin, Aya Takano - The Jelly Civilization Chronicle, 17 March - 13 May 2017


In the Lab (the Birth of Jelly)

signed and dated '2017 Aya Takano' on the overlap
oil on canvas
97 x 130.3 cm. (38 1/4 x 51 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for HK$441,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021