Yoshitomo Nara - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips

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  • "… I have come to yearn for my childhood when I would cry out loud, laugh, and leap as I wished. They were emotions that I had almost forgotten in my stages of becoming an adult. (…) Perhaps, by making works with children as the subject matter, I am projecting my wish not to forget to be – not a 'selfish child' but – 'like a child' "
    — Yoshitomo Nara
    Children subjects are Yoshitomo Nara’s most recognisable artistic signature: apparently innocent and naive, the young figures who populate the Japanese artist’s visual world are – at a closer look – convoluted and multifaceted characters who embody complex and visceral human emotions. The concept of kawaii, the Japanese culture of cuteness which seems to mark his oeuvre, is in fact questioned and challenged through depictions that provocatively deconstruct both the idea of childhood as the age of light-heartedness and unawareness, and that of adulthood as the age of maturity.


    In Nothing Ever Happened, executed in 1995, a child in a kitten costume plays a guitar with his eyes closed, a detail which can allude to the carefreeness and insouciance of the moment represented in the scene, but which can as well be a deliberate ostentation of false indifference and neglect towards something that one has witnessed and prefers to forget or not have seen. The title of the artwork further confirms that the painting is charged with heavier connotations than the ones which can be implied at first glance.


    The nonchalant, relaxed expression and posture of the child is interestingly similar to that of the musician depicted in the painting The Lute Player (c. 1596), by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. Both figures play the chordal instrument without looking at it, flaunting a comparable graceful effortlessness.


    Caravaggio, The Lute Player, c. 1596
    Image: Bridgeman Images

    One of the most globally acclaimed contemporary artists, Yoshitomo Nara was born in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, Japan, and received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music. Between 1988 and 1993, Nara studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, in Germany. He repatriated to Japan in 2000. Among his most recent exhibitions are the solo show Yoshitomo Nara at Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China (5 March 2022 – 2 January 2023) and the large scale sculpture Peace Head, on display at Hanover Square, London, from 9 May to 28 October 2022.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Johnen & Schöttle, Cologne
      Private Collection, Netherlands (acquired from the above in 2002)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Noriko Miyamura and Shinko Suzuki, eds., Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works Volume 2: Works on Paper 1984-2010, San Francisco, 2011, pp. 78 (illustrated)


Nothing Ever Happened

titled and dated '"NOTHING EVER HAPPENED" '95' along the bottom edge; further signed and dated 'Yoshitomo Nara '95' upper right
acrylic on paper
55.7 x 41.6 cm. (21 7/8 x 16 3/8 in.)
Executed in 1995.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for HK$1,524,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 March 2023