Yoshitomo Nara - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • “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
    As a pioneering figure in contemporary art, Japanese visual artist Yoshitomo Nara is renowned for his multidisciplinary practice that explores themes of solitude, spirituality, and childlike rebellion. The present work is a complete set of ten Ukiyo-e woodcuts in colours on Japanese painter, with each work featuring Nara’s iconic subject of the large-eyed, pastel-hued child who is brought to life with deceptively simple and stylized lines.


    In the artist’s studio

    In the present work, the variations of Nara girls reflect the artist’s diverse influences in their exploration of psychological universe of childhood experience. Whereas some are more playful—such as the composition of the child with Flintstone-styled crossed-bones on their forehead, who pulls as a face and dances above the text ‘I DON’T WANT TO GROW UP’—others portray a deeper, emotive side, like the little girl who floats in the clouds alongside the phrase: ‘Don’t wanna cry.’


    Straddling infantile imagination, adult anxiety, and ageless rebellion, each composition harkens back to the thematic aesthetic Nara began developing following his graduation from the Aichi University of the Arts, when he moved to Germany and undertook a six-year artistic apprenticeship at Düsseldorf’s Staatliche Kunstakademie under the mentorship of the Neo-Expressionist painter A.R. Penck. Language barriers in Germany had plunged Nara back into a period of acute solitude which he had not experienced since his childhood.


    Kitagawa Utamaro, The Courtesan Hanazuma Reading a Letter, from the series Beauties Compared to Flowers (Bijin hana awase), circa 1790s
    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939

    Seeking relief, the artist began plumbing the depths of his subconscious through art, manifesting his profound sense of alienation through illustrations of children who appear innocent upon first glance, but reveal a more mishevious side upon closer inspection. As embodied in the present work, is through these subjects that Nara has enthralled the imaginations and garnered the respect of museums, collectors, and a loyal following worldwide.


    Having been the subject of extensive exhibitions at key galleries and institutions around the world, Nara has most recently been honoured with important solo shows at museums that include the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, which is currently ongoing until 25 June 2023; Yuz Museum in Shanghai in 2022-2023; Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2021-2022; Dallas Contemporary in 2021; Kuandu Museum of Arts in Taipei in 2021; and the Rubell Family Collection in Miami in 2020-2021, to highlight a few.


    Further, Nara’s work has been on the covers of records by bands such as Shonen Knife, REM, The Star Club, The Birdy Num Nums and many more, as well as the covers of books by writers such as Banana Yoshimoto, Hijo Tanaka, and Riichi Nakaba. In December 2022, Nara released his second collaboration with fashion designer Stella McCartney.


    Work by Nara is held in the most important institutions around the globe, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the British Museum, London; Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Australia, among others.

    • Provenance

      Pace Prints, Hong Kong
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012

    • Literature

      Noriko Miyamura and Shinko Suzuki, eds., Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works Volume 1: Paintings, Sculpture, Editions, Phographs 1984-2010, San Francisco, 2011, pp. 315, 402 (illustrated, p.315)



Untitled (M. & S. E-2010-003 - E-2010-012)

all signed, numbered and dated '9/50 2010 Yoshitomo Nara' along the bottom edge
the complete set of 10 Ukiyo-e woodcuts in colours on Japanese paper, the full sheets
(i) 42.2 x 29.5 cm. (16 5/8 x 11 5/8 in.)
(ii) 42.2 x 29.7 cm. (16 5/8 x 11 3/4 in.)
(iii) 42.3 x 29.3 cm. (16 5/8 x 11 1/2 in.)
(iv) 42 x 29.3 cm. (16 1/2 x 11 1/2 in.)
(v) 42.3 x 29.7 cm. (16 5/8 x 11 3/4 in.)
(vi) 42.2 x 29.6 cm. (16 5/8 x 11 5/8 in.)
(vii) 42.2 x 29.4 cm. (16 5/8 x 11 5/8 in.)
(viii) 41.8 x 29.5 cm. (16 1/2 x 11 5/8 in.)
(ix) 42.1 x 29.6 cm. (16 5/8 x 11 5/8 in.)
(x) 42.1 x 29.8 cm. (16 5/8 x 11 3/4 in.)

Published by Pace Prints in 2010, this work is number 9 from an edition of 50 plus 12 artist's proofs. Each individual print is registered in the Yoshitomo Nara Online Catalogue Raisonné.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Sold for HK$3,302,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 March 2023