AYA TAKANO - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • Renowned for her unique, enchanting and whimsical paintings that blend popular culture with fantastical landscapes, Aya Takano is a supremely talented contemporary Japanese artist who was born in 1976 in Saitama, Japan. Takano emerged from a childhood deeply rooted in comic books, animations, and video games, which would go on to inspire her artwork. Her painting style draws from the aesthetic of traditional woodblock prints, ukiyo-e (picture of the floating world), while simultaneously integrates the influence of Western painting traditions — most notably French Impressionism and European Surrealism.

    As a prominent member of Takashi Murakami's Kaikai Kiki collective, Aya Takano has captivated global audiences with mesmerising, thought-provoking, and otherworldly artwork that transports viewers to an enigmatic realm. Through her synthesis of diverse artistic inspirations and methodologies, Takano’s works showcase a highly unique and compelling aesthetic that also follows the lead of her peers such as Takashi Murakami, and in line with the aesthetic of the Superflat movement.


    By blurring the lines between fantasy and reality in her bizarre, idealistic visual world, however, Takano’s paintings disrupt in that they push viewers to challenge notions of ‘normality’. Her compositions serve as an exploration of identity, feminism and self-expression, provoking viewers to think more deeply about how to perceive the world.



    Utopian Fantasy World


    Detail of the present work


    Takano’s canvases often feature wide-eyed, ethereal characters floating in dreamlike landscapes, full of pastel colours and intricate details. The intersection of reality and fantasy is an extremely important tone of super-flatness, which is best exemplified in Takano's works. The current work—In the 30th Year of the Showa, the Day the Fire Flowers Rose—likely showcases a utopian fantasy world to the audience, where all characters and images have no clear boundaries nor hierarchical distinctions.


    Takano's artistry often includes a harmonious blend of reflections on Japanese contemporary society, traditional culture, and artistic techniques. In the year 1955, during the Showa 30 period, Japan witnessed a time of rapid growth and prosperity for both its society and economy. This era also marked the beginning of elevated spirits and thriving fortunes. Meanwhile, the character’s costume and dreamlike background transports us to a world where fireworks and traditional attires, reminiscent of Japan's summer festivals, create picturesque scenes unique to Japan.

    In the 30th Year of the Showa, the Day the Fire Flowers Rose directly references a bygone era, whilst simultaneously exuding a sense of anticipation for the bright horizon of life ahead. The work presents to the viewer a sentimental attachment to Japan's rich cultural heritage, and, amidst the dazzling brilliance of the fireworks, a liberation from the anxieties and biases of the present, returning to the pure and pulsating euphoria of idealism. The floating figures and unalloyed creative expression merge perfectly and harmoniously in this dreamy world, just like super-flatness itself.



    Breaking the Gendered Lens


    “What everyone sees as young girls in my work are really the liberated, vibrant beings that exists within us all. I do not believe that I am attempting to emphasise sexuality. What I am showing is a state where we hold on to nothing and yet are one with everything. It is a form of ecstasy.”
    — Aya Takano


    In the 1980s, youthful girls became a target of consumer culture in Japan's otaku culture, leading to objectification and infantilisation of women. Female Japanese artists like Takano are disruptive for reinventing otaku culture through a unique feminine perspective, exploring the future's impact on the female heroine's role in society. Although Takano's artworks typically feature characters with traditional feminine traits like long hair, dresses, and breasts, they remain androgynous and ambiguous, forever in a young a pubescent state before specific gendered traits are fully developed. In an effort to further challenge gender norms, Takano also includes genderless characters that resemble fairies or aliens. The artist believes that in the future, the boundary between genders will be broken:



     “… I believe ‘gender’ will solely be the word to describe the mechanism of an individual body. We are now coming to understand that there is such a wide diversity [in gender identity] depending on the individual. While I cannot tell what the biological and survival consequences of this will be, I am curious to find out about the future of this path.”
    — Aya Takano



    In the present composition, Takano depicts a world that is both otherworldly and grounded in humanity, in which Takano carefully balances serious themes with playful whimsy. Androgynous protagonists, extraterrestrial creatures, a whimsical scene of vegetables suspended in mid-air amidst drifting clouds and trailing shooting stars come together to form a vibrant background. The use of delicate and soft colouration in depicting this scene imparts a sense of gentle enchantment to the piece, reflecting Takano’s playful aesthetic vision and distinctive artistry.


    Collector’s Digest


    • The mesmerising world of Aya Takano art is undoubtedly an investment in both the mind and the spirit. Her works has been exhibited in: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum Frieder Burda; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; Helsinki Museum of Art; Museum der Moderne Salzburg; Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Aomori Museum.

    • Aya Takano graduated from Tama Art University in 2000 and became the featured female artist in Kaikai Kiki Gallery soon after. Takano is represented by renown galleries including Kaikai Kiki Gallery (Tokyo), Blum & Poe Gallery (LA and Tokyo), Galerie Perrotin, Galleria Lorcan O’Neill (Rome), Parco Gallery (Tokyo), etc., solidifying her position as a prominent artist in both Japan and on the global art scene.


    A documentary about Aya Takano and her celebrated art practice 

    • Provenance

      Galerie Perrotin, Paris
      Private Collection
      Phillips, Hong Kong, 25 November 2019, lot 132
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Literature

      Jennifer Higgie, Aya Takano, Belgium, 2010, pp. 66-67 (illustrated)


In the 30th Year of the Showa, the Day the Fire Flowers Rose

signed and dated '2005 TAKANO AYA' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
181.6 x 227 cm. (71 1/2 x 89 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2005.

Full Cataloguing

HK$500,000 - 800,000 

Sold for HK$635,000

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Mid-Season Sales
+852 2318 2014

Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2001

Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023