Yoshitomo Nara - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Thursday, July 9, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Germany
    Christie's, London, 21 October 2008, Lot 418
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 4 April 2011, Lot 986
    Private Collection
    Mission Auction, Shanghai, 2 November 2014, Lot 391
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Literature

    Noriko Miyamura and Shinko Suzuki, eds., Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works Volume 1: Paintings, Sculptures, Editions, Photographs 1984-2010, Tokyo, 2011, no. P-1994-039, p. 108 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Nara’s roly-poly children balance on the razor’s edge: they are cute embodiments of infantilism in their chubby-cheeked plumpness […] but at the same time true individuals who will not be defeated, quiet carriers of hope."Stephan Trescher
    Quoted in ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog’, in Yoshitomo Nara: Lullaby Supermarket, exh.cat., Institut für Kunst Nürnberg, Nuremberg, 2002, p. 15

    Rendered in pastel hues of pistachio green, blush pink-toned cream and deep chocolate brown, Wheels Go Round is an exquisite example of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara’s most acclaimed subject: the seemingly innocuous child-figure . In 1988, after having graduated from the Aichi University of the Arts, Nara moved to Germany to study at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. When asked to reflect upon his time spent in the foreign city, Nara recalls how he ‘literally became “alone” there. It strongly reminded [him] of the memory of [his] lonely childhood’ (Yoshitomo Nara quoted in Hideo Furukawa, ‘An interview with Yoshitomo Nara’, Asymptote Journal, November 2013, online). During this period, Nara produced some of his most powerful works as he began stripping his compositions of unnecessary detail, thus intensifying the emotive potential of the central figure and their inner world.

    Executed in 1994, the luminously-painted cartoonish head of a little cherub fills the frame in Wheels Go Round, featuring ukiyo-e style slanted eyes, a snub nose and slightly downturned mouth. Although this minimal aesthetic is reminiscent of traditional Japanese ink painting’s focus on the void, Nara’s influences are far-reaching, including children’s literary classics such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince, and Japanese fairy-tales from the 1940s and 1950s. Ostensibly innocent at first glance, the child’s look is concurrently defiant and mischievous, calling to mind universal child memories and perfectly demonstrating the global allure of Nara’s most enduring motif.

Property from a Private Asian Collection


Wheels Go Round

signed, titled, dedicated and dated 'For Alistair "Wheels go round" Yoshitomo Nara [in Japanese] '94' on the reverse
oil on canvas
32 x 40.3 cm. (12 5/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1994.

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$3,750,000

Contact Specialist
Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 9 July 2020