Yoshitomo Nara - New Now London Tuesday, December 15, 2020 | Phillips

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  • "I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives."
    —Yoshitomo Nara
    Fuck You, 2003, is exemplary of Yoshitomo Nara’s rendering portraying innocent cartoon-like characters undertaking mischievous activities in a punk aesthetic. Executed in the early 2000s, the present work is from the artist’s most importantly considered period and sought-after compositions, the subject hovering in the awkward intervening moment between the virtue of youth and stark reality of adulthood.


    Seemingly innocent at first glance, Nara’s figures reveal a darker and humorous side to these boys and girls, who wield knives and flaming torches and are a “symbolic representation of the dominant feelings of Japanese youth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, characterised by a sense of uncertainty about the future, vulnerability, and a yearning for the innocence preserved in the inner child.”i In Fuck You, situated at the center of the work, one of Nara’s instantly recognizable tropes is drawn in coloured pencil with simultaneously characteristic naïve charm and formed using strong bold outlines that recall Japanese Anime, ukiyo-e prints and the emotionally-charged visual idioms of German Neo-Expressionism from Nara’s studies in Dusseldorf. The figure encapsulates Nara’s interpretation of the Japanese concept of Kowa Kawaii, a term regularly used when describing Nara’s artistic practice and translates to “scary cute.”


    Amusingly, the representation of the eyes for which Nara places so much importance, is powerfully replaced in the present example with the words “fuck u”, stamping the statement on the figure’s forehead, contrasted with the figures precarious balance on childlike tiptoes that resemble fire. The unique confluence of naïveté and punchy associations and uniquely reimagined cultural and art historical references demonstrate the artist's pursuit of meanings in his commentary upon his view of the contemporary world.

    iMidori Matsui, “Art for Myself and Others: Yoshitomo Nara's Popular Imagination,” Melissa Chiu, et al, eds., Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool, New York, 2010, p. 13 

    • Provenance

      Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Bijutsu Shuppan Sha, ed., Yoshitomo Nara The Complete Works, Volume Two Works on Paper, San Francisco, 2011, p.206 (illustrated)


Fuck You

signed with the artist’s initials, titled and dated ‘Fuck U Y N. 2003’ on the reverse
coloured pencil on paper envelope
30.7 x 22.7 cm (12 1/8 x 8 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2003.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £75,600

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey
Specialist, Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 15 December 2020