Yoshitomo Nara - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • Few artists have had as much of an impact on the world of contemporary art as Yoshitomo Nara. A true pioneering figure, Nara’s iconic and playful depictions of children and animals are infused with a punk sensibility that challenges the status quo and pushes boundaries. The seemingly simple compositions of his works deceptively belie their emotional depth, imbued with a sense of nostalgia and childlike wonder. Inspired by both popular culture and Japan's illustrious artistic traditions, Nara’s depictions of his iconic little girls are at once humorous and serious, endearing and rebellious.


    “I want people to feel something when they look at my work – whether it’s happiness or sadness, joy or anger. I want them to feel something real.”
    — Yoshitomo Nara


    In Hand Searching, one of Nara’s coveted and popular sculpture designs, the Nara girl is portrayed with rounded eyes that confront the viewer with a slight side-gaze and ruby-red downturned smirk that feels mature beyond her years. Intimate in scale, the viewer towers over the endearing child, who is dressed in an oversized shirt with sleeves that are too long for her limbs. As she holds out one of her arms, as if to question the audience, 'Where is my hand?', the expression she's making is almost accusatory, as if she's wondering why we're taking so long to help her roll up her sleeves.


    The baby-blue colour of her oversized attire is reminiscent of the literary icons, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland - whom are both female heroines known for their optimism and resilience in the face of adversity. Through this connection, it is possible to draw numerous metaphorical links between this Nara girl and the characters from these iconic stories, as she is confident and courageous, regardless of her small size and youthful naivety.



    A clip from the 1951 film by Walt Disney Productions, Alice in Wonderland, based on the Alice books by Lewis Carroll


    As the first artist to truly launch this cute, anime-like style to the world stage on such a significant level, Nara's unique visual language overtly echoes Japanese pop aesthetics, breaking the stigma of anime and comics being regarded a 'lesser' creative medium. Nara’s success has since inspired and paved the way for other Japanese artists such as Aya Takano and Mr., who are associated with the Superflat movement.


    Lot 335, Aya Takano, In the 30th Year of the Showa, the Day the Fire Flowers Rose, 2005
    Phillips Hong Kong Disruptors Sale, 25 May 2023
    Estimate: HK$500,000 - 800,000


    Similar to Nara, both Mr. and Aya Takano focus their art on depicting female heroines and protagonists, with the inspiration for their subjects largely being inspired by visuals conjured by anime and videogames, as well as more traditional forms of art such as Japanese woodblock prints. We see this, for example, in Takano’s painting, In the 30th Year of the Showa, the Day the Fire Flowers Rose (Lot 335), and Mr.’s Misaki (Lot 308). Unlike Mr. and Takano, however, Nara is unique in the way he imbues his creations with an emotive power and depth, which speaks to a greater theme of sentimentality that has become associated with his work.


    Lot 307, Mr., Misaki, 2017
    Phillips Hong Kong Disruptors Sale, 25 May 2023
    Estimate: HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000


    It is with good reason that Nara's work has become so coveted and influential; his pieces are now instantly recognisable, yet they always offer something new to consider, as showcased by Hand Searching. Indeed, Nara's legacy is one of perpetual exploration and reinvention - a feat which will continue to inspire generations of artists for years to come.



    Collector’s Digest


    • Born 1959 in Hirosaki, Japan, Yoshitomo Nara stands as one of the defining icons in contemporary art today. He completed his master’s degree at Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music in 1987. 

    • 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. 

    • 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

      HOW2WORK, Hong Kong
      Private Collection, Hong Kong
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Hand Searching

polystone, acrylic, coloured pencil and mixed media
31 x 12.2 x 14 cm. (12 1/4 x 4 3/4 x 5 1/2 in.)
Produced by HOW2WORK, Hong Kong in 2017, this work is number 16 from an edition of 150, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and issued by HOW2WORK. This work is registered in the Yoshitomo Nara Online Catalogue Raisonné under registration number YNF6892.

Full Cataloguing

HK$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for HK$584,200

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Mid-Season Sales
+852 2318 2014

Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2001

Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023