Yoshitomo Nara - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
    Private Collection, USA
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    St Louis, Contemporary Art Museum, Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens, 3 December 2004 - 26 February 2005
    Aspen, Aspen Art Museum, Having New Eyes, 7 February - 16 April 2006

  • Literature

    Yoshitomo Nara: the Complete Works, Volume 2: Works on Paper 1984 - 2010, Bijutsu Shuppansha, Tokyo, 2011, cat. rais. no. D-2003-014, p. 200

  • Catalogue Essay

    Daydreamer is the largest work on paper by Yoshitomo Nara to appear at auction in recent years. Nara is one of the most celebrated Japanese contemporary artists, whose works have been included in exhibitions and collections of prominent art museums across the globe. An iconic image encompassing the entire composition with her tremendously large head, abbreviated body and mesmerizing doting eyes, the young figure drawn against a simple pastel background in Daydreamer impresses onto the viewer a sensation of extreme cuteness (kawaii). Consistent with Nara’s famous portraits, this drawing appears reductive and straight-forward at first glance, borrowing the flatness and cartoon-like aesthetic of manga and anime. However, the enormous size of this work illuminates Nara’s masterful technical skill in rendering the tiny yet crucial details of the work such as the mathematically precise white dots lining the gorgeous moss-colored irises and the elegant eyelashes shaped by a few flickers of the pencil. The artist explains, 'People say you have a big influence from Japanese animation. No, I have a big influence from my childhood' (Nara in 'Punk Art,' Giant Robot, USA, no. 20:26). In addition to Japanese comics and television, Nara claims that the Japanese countryside- the isolation it imposed and imagination it cultivated - also played a key role in his artistic development.

    Nara is known for integrating the multifaceted and even contradictory qualities inherent in children—their being at once naïve and precocious, complicated yet carefree, sweet though wicked. Perhaps the rock ‘n’ roll music Nara plays as he fervently paints in his studio manifests in the defiant attitudes of these figures. ‘On the surface, Nara’s kids appear uncomplicated, even bored at times, yet one doesn’t have to look far to uncover the layers of mischief and emotion bubbling beneath—it’s as if the harder you look, the more these children seem to know and the more you have to learn. Through the faces of his subjects, Nara invites us to linger, to leave the rules at the door and enter the more fluid and uninhibited world of children. While many of his contemporaries embrace the escapism afforded by the futuristic fantasy and play of anime, Nara does not retreat entirely into the make-believe. Rather, he provides a conduit to another world—a world hopefully still within reach— through the immediacy and directness of children’ (Kristin Chambers, ‘A Visit to Naraland,’ Nothing Ever Happens, Cleveland, 2003, p. 28).

    Daydreamer, however, introduces a curious spin on the artist’s iconic style. Instead of the typically angry upturned eyes or blank doll-like stare, this drawing depicts a relatively calm figure who gazes gently but nevertheless relentlessly at the viewer. Along with her subtle smile (or smirk), this young child, shrouded in mystery, possesses a certain control over the viewer making all other Nara figures seem predictable in comparison. Ambiguity obfuscates her peacefulness as '…it is often more haunting and evocative to consider what is suppressed, what might lie beneath the social mask we are compelled to wear. It is the disquiet that speaks to us and with which we connect' (Ibid, p. 30). Daydreamer engages directly with the viewer, compelling them not only to help resolve the incomplete narrative space, but also to contemplate the many dualities of adulthood, embracing the fact that evil is an essential part of innocence. 'My work contains a lot of guilty memories that remind me of how bad I’ve been. I frequently get letters from people who tell me that my paintings show them their own inner darkness' (Yoshitomo Nara, quoted in Midori Matsui, 'Interview with Yoshitomo Nara, Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool, New York, 2001, p. 62).

Property of an Important Asian Collector



pastel, acrylic and colour pencil on paper
156.5 x 136.5 cm (61 5/8 x 53 3/4 in.)
Executed in 2003, this work is accompanied by a certifcate of authenticity issued by Rabbit Hills.

HK$5,000,000 - 7,000,000 

Sold for HK$12,080,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

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Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 27 November 2016