Yoshitomo Nara - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Aomori, Yoshii Brick Brewhouse, Yoshitomo Nara + Graf: A to Z, 29 July - 22 October 2006

  • Literature

    Yoshitomo Nara and Graf, A to Z, Tokyo, 2006, unpaginated
    Noriko Miyamura and Shinko Suzuki, eds., Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works Volume 1: Paintings, Sculptures, Editions, Photographs 1984-2010, Tokyo, 2011, no. S-2005-002, p. 279 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed in 2005, the present lot’s long snouted white puppy with floppy ears is amongst Yoshitomo Nara’s most beloved characters. Its outwardly innocent form encapsulates a deeply held set of emotions spanning childhood memories, spirituality, and loneliness. Representative of the prolific Japanese artist’s style, one which blends childlike imagination with undercurrents of adult cynicism, not only are Nara’s works highly relatable to audiences of all ages but they also possess strong spiritual and autobiographical qualities that reach into the heart of the artist’s unique brand of art-making.

    The giant scale puppy head rendered in pure white brings to mind the komainu from the Japanese tradition, mythical lion-dog statues commonly placed at shrine entrances as guardians. Dignified and imposing in solidity and size, Nara introduces emotional complexity to what is commonly viewed as a noble statue. Unlike humans, animals do not have the ability to communicate through words, doing so instead through their expressions. Whilst large and solid, the domesticated canine companion’s playful expression is betrayed by long drooping ears that evoke the fragile vulnerability of a wounded puppy, even conveying a sense of defensive anxiety in response to its surroundings. The result is a larger than life work that is both endearing yet faintly menacing.

    The puppy motif that populates Nara’s oeuvre is also highly significant to the artist’s personal life, exemplified by the character’s inclusion as the main protagonist of Nara’s first children’s book The Lonesome Puppy. The artist wrote and illustrated a tale of a large dog that was so big that nobody noticed him, until a little girl came by and climbed through the clouds to befriend him. The story recounts the point of view of the puppy: ‘I was too big for anyone to notice me, that’s why I was all alone and lonesome.’ (Yoshitomo Nara, The Lonesome Puppy, California, 2008, n.p.). Growing up the youngest of three sons with much older brothers and emotionally distant parents, Nara’s childhood was largely spent in isolation. Left to the confines of his imagination in rural post-war Japan, he recounts in an interview, ‘When you are a kid, you are too young to know you are lonely, sad, and upset…now I know I was.’ (Yoshitomo Nara quoted in Kay Itoi ‘Interview with Yoshitomo Nara’, ARTNews, May 1998, p.153) Simple in form yet complex in its underlying intentions, Nara’s puppy is essentially a self-portrait that carries the emotions and memories from the artist’s developing youth, its yearning for friendship and affection manifested through its physical size.

    Since the Japanese pop movement in the 1990s, Yoshitomo Nara has received international acclaim for his distinct figurative style. His drawings, paintings and sculptures can be seen in the permanent collections at MOMA, New York; CAC Malaga, Spain; Queensland Art Gallery, Australia and his largest sculpture, a 3-metre high concrete dog, is permanently installed at the Aomori Art Museum, Japan. A mixture of vulnerability, rebellion and hopefulness within Nara’s artworks connects intimately with people worldwide.

Property from an Important Los Angeles Collection


The Prototype of the Head of Morioka Pup

fibre reinforced plastic and wood
Head: 93.3 x 73.7 x 109.2 cm (36 3/4 x 29 x 42 7/8 in.)
Base: 71.8 x 68.6 x 102.8 cm (28 1/4 x 27 x 40 1/2 in.)

Executed in 2005.

HK$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for HK$1,750,000

Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019