Yoshitomo Nara - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, November 14, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, acquired directly from the artist
    Private Collection, California

  • Literature

    Y. Nara, S. Trescher, B. Yoshimoto, Lullaby Supermarket, Nuremberg: Verlag für moderne Kunst Nurnberg, 2001, p.
    N. Miyamura, S. Suzuki, ed., Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works: Paintings, Sculptures, Editions, Photographs, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2011, cat. no. P-1992-007, p. 81 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Yoshitomo Nara has consistently and relentlessly pursued an art informed by a conglomeration of sources. An integral component of the Japanese Pop movement, his art bridges East and West, high and low, whimsical yet violent. Nara has been particularly influenced by the essence of rock music culture and its insistence on individual expression and rebellion. These certain personality traits are not typical of Japanese culture with its tendency towards consensus and harmony and have not only contributed to his particular frame of mind growing up as a latchkey child, but have also seeped deeply into the backbones of his distinctive artistic practice. Beneath the adorable presence of children and animals is, in reality, a rebellious attitude that sets him apart from the group of Neo Pop artists from the 1990s in Japan.

    Having already adopted the heavy line work of his German mentor A.R. Penck by the time he painted Rock n’ Roll Suicide in 1992 while still studying and working in Germany, Nara has depicted a disconcertingly serene girl strumming a small guitar while floating, or sinking, inextricably upside down in a pool of water. There is something undeniable between our strummer’s tranquility and the seemingly inherent and imminent danger with which she is greeted. The viewer is not privy to whether or not the surface tension of the water is supporting her but the double entendre title clearly alludes to dire situations ahead. The title of the painting is similarly the title to a seminal song by David Bowie which serves as the closing track to his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Nara has constantly mined the rock lexicon for the imagery in his paintings, eventually creating a particular cast of young female characters, the Ramonas, in honor of the punk band. Rock music provided an outlet for the young Nara growing up and its message of independence and creative rebellion has continued to inform the artist’s modus operandi ever since.

    Clearly, Rock ‘N Roll Suicide is Nara working through many of the motifs and themes that would eventually solidify his placement in the upper echelons of contemporary artists working today. By melding traditional symbols, such as the water in which the young protagonist is meeting her fate, with his own more contemporary ones, Nara has created an alternative reality harmonizing its contradictory components. A simultaneously beautifully tranquil and desperately nightmarish dream, Rock ‘N Roll Suicide encapsulates Nara’s determination to push beyond the limits of standard dichotomies and create wholly new realities in which the viewer can respond as he or she is affected.


Rock n' Roll Suicide

acrylic on canvas
31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (80 x 80 cm)
Signed, inscribed and dated "But nothing get me down Yoshitomo Nara '92" on the reverse.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $365,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
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New York
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Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2014 11am