Yoshitomo Nara - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 25, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe Gallery, Los Angeles
    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, Tokyo, 2011, no. D-2003-024, p. 201 (illustrated)
    Yoshitomo Nara, The Little Star Dweller, Taiwan, 2004, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed in 2003, Not Now is one of the largest works on paper by renowned and internationally-acclaimed artist Yoshitomo Nara. Having gained widespread recognition in the academic, critical and commercial branches of the art world, Nara is not only a key player in defining of contemporary Japanese art, but his work also crosses cultural boundaries. Among his countless exhibitions in his native Japan and worldwide, Nara was recently honored with a major retrospective show in 2017 at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art in Japan featuring works from 1987 to the present. In the tradition of Nara’s celebrated oeuvre, the present lot integrates simplified forms with the artist’s devotion to detail.

    With a near translucent effect, the present lot is a remarkably layered work depicting a large solitary figure rendered in rich orange, ochre and beige tones against a deep maroon backdrop. Nara explains, “I guess I have a fondness for things in danger of being thrown out, for the little objects that reside at the edge of my field of vision. I don’t want to overlook these things because, even in their solitariness, they make up what we know of the world” (Yoshitomo Nara, Yoshitomo Nara: Self-Selected Works—Works on Paper, Seigensha: Kyoto, 2015, p. 151.) As a result of the cartoon-like aesthetic of Nara’s renowned body of works, viewers often misunderstand the influence of manga and anime on the artist’s process. Furthermore, his work is commonly misinterpreted as being purely part of the Japanese new Pop movement. Yet the artist claims that the picture books he read as a child has had a greater influence on his work, asserting that they would “tell many stories with one picture… this kind of system, of narratives emerging from a single picture” (Yoshitomo Nara, Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool, Asia Society Museum/Abrams: New York, 2010, p. 175). Therefore, unlike the reductive imagery of manga, anime, or new Pop, Nara aims to render narrative while dismantling the transience of time through art.

    Though Nara is known for his portrayals of cartoonish children and animals, Not Now represents a recent shift in the artist’s attention towards more contemplative sensibilities within his work. In the place of vulnerable, angry and rebellious doll-like or puppy figures wielding guitars or knives, Not Now illustrates an independent figure gazing off into the distance, appearing uninterested in or perhaps even disappointed with the reality around her. In contrast to the quick reactive expressions of Nara’s earlier works, the protagonist of Not Now is emotionally detached from her surroundings, demonstrating a position of resolution and control. Nuances in the figure’s composure and emotive capabilities point to developments towards more spiritual and philosophical considerations in Nara’s work.

    Similar to Daydreamer, another monumental work on paper executed in the same year as the present lot, Not Now is indicative of a change of pace in Nara’s working style. “Before I’d paint as far as my physical stamina lasted and finished a work in a day,” says the artist (Yoshitomo Nara, Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool, p. 182). In recent years, Nara has gone on to claim that “there’s a lot more conversation that I have with the image… That’s really me having a conversation with myself. It allows me to draw out parts of myself that I’m not even aware are there” (Yoshitomo Nara with Robert Ayers, “I Was Really Unthinking Before,” ARTnews, April 14, 2017). Not Now not only exposes the private thinking space of the artist, this work also draws out the viewer’s sensibility to colour and the human condition - provoking self-reflection and contemplation within its audience. In response to whether his new works demonstrate the wisdom of old age, Nara simply says, “There’s really no way the younger me could have made this work” (Ibid).

Property of an Important American Collector


Not Now

pastel, acrylic and coloured pencil on paper
134.6 x 119.4 cm. (52 7/8 x 47 in.)
Executed in 2003.

HK$6,000,000 - 8,000,000 

Sold for HK$7,300,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2017