Yoshitomo Nara - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "My viewers become a true audience when they take what I’ve made and make it their own. That’s the moment the works gain their freedom, even from their maker."
    —Yoshitomo Nara from his essay 'Nobody’s Fool', 2011

    Printed by master printer Yasu Shibata at the Pace Editions Workshop, this complete set of ten ukiyo-e woodcuts effortlessly presents Nara’s signature imagery through a labor-intensive printmaking process familiar to Nara and Japanese heritage. Rendered with attitude, somewhere between melancholy and punk, Yoshitomo Nara’s famous ‘femme fatales’ draw us in. Formally uncomplicated, Nara's characters engage the viewer with their playful, and at times abject depictions of the human condition; solemn-faced and annoyed. They stare out, wide-eyed and most often not at us. Forms of self-expression, deprecation, and proclamation, Nara captivates the viewer with a singular figure, often accompanied by text or objects. His figures evoke forgotten memories or feelings of childhood, sparked anew by their childlike features and expressions. Referencing his nimble drawings, often done on brown paper or cardboard, these woodcuts embody the same immediacy, but more refined, elevating his practice while imbuing the images with the same lively energy. 


    Drawing upon his western influences from his time studying art at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, and his love of western music, Nara has created works that have universal appeal. Music and album covers inspired Nara from an early age. Born in 1959 in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, Nara’s childhood was impacted by the aftermath of war and economic recovery. When he was nine, Nara began listening to Folk music legends like Fleetwood Mack, Joni Mitchell and Barry McGuire, later leading to a profound love and expansive collection of rock, blues, soul, and punk records. “After contemplative folk singers taught me about deep empathy," said Nara, "the punk rockers schooled me in explosive expression.”  


    Gypsy Song, 2010

    A source of escape, records transported Nara into visions and daydreams. “When you are a kid, you are too young to know you are lonely, sad, upset,” said Nara, “…now I know I was.” His young girlish characters feel reflective of this, each print a glimpse into another facet of his internal psyche. Explosive, punk energy tinged with melodic, contemplative understanding, each character’s action embodies a fascination with mood; distilled from music culture. “Album covers were the first things that spoke to me as works of visual art. For me, having been brought up in a rural area where there were no museums, this was my very first art experience,” said Nara.


    Dan Penn, Nobody’s Fool, 1973


    "So I don’t listen to music in order to draw something. Of course, I listen to music when I draw. But I do not intentionally try to draw from the beginning. When I’m listening, I see an image and try to capture it."
    —Yoshitomo Nara

    Creating his own unique style by centralizing the figure of a child as his subject, largely surrounded by empty space indicative of a void, Nara allows for child-like associations. “Nara will always find his own voice, as he once found it in the strange but deeply familiar figure of the solitary child dwelling in the apparent void of his unconscious. Somewhere in his inexhaustible imaginary realm, the image of a simple song awaits his return, and its return to the world with him.” – Midori Matsui, “A Child in the White Field: Yoshitomo Nara as a Great ‘Minor’ Artist” in Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works, Paintings, Sculptures, Editions

    • Provenance

      Pace Prints, New York
      Important New York Collection

    • Literature

      Noriko Miyamura & Shinko Suzuki E-2010-003 - E-2020-012

    • Catalogue Essay

      Including: Don't Wanna Cry; Gypsy Song; Hateful Christmas; I Don't Want to Grow Up; Life Is Only One; My Little Treasure; Poindexter; Pissed Off; S.O.S.; and Walk On


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

The complete set of 10 Ukiyo-e woodcuts in colors, on Japanese paper, the full sheets.
all S. 16 1/2 x 11 5/8 in. (41.9 x 29.5 cm)
All signed, dated and numbered 2/50 in pencil (there were also 12 artist's proofs), co-published by Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, and Pace Editions, Inc., New York, all framed.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $756,000

Contact Specialist

212 940 1220


Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 19-21 October 2021