Yoshitomo Nara - New Now London Thursday, December 9, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'As a reticent foreign student from a far-off land, I must have seemed like a mute child. I decided that I would make myself understood not through words, but through having people look at my pictures […] I redoubled my efforts to express myself through visions of my private world. Instead of defeating you in an argument, I wanted to invite you inside me.' —Yoshitomo Nara

    Yoshimoto Nara is one of the most prominent Japanese artists working today. Born in 1959, in Hirosaki, Nara’s childhood would be marked by his exposure to American pop culture which gained momentum in Japan during the aftermath of the Second World War. Today Nara is considered one of the pioneers of Japanese Neo-pop, and is also associated with the Superflat movement since his 2001 collaborations with Takashi Murakami. The work depicted here takes us back to the 1990s, a productive period in the development of Nara’s singular style.


    Dioxin, executed in 1992, was created while Nara was studying at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Nara began his studies at the German arts academy in 1988 and trained under painter A.R. Penck during his time there. The influence of Neo-Expressionism and traditional Ukiyo-e printmaking can be seen clearly in this work, visible through the thick contours used in the rendering of the pan and the heavy lines that surround it, as if the animated pan had been cast into unsteady waters. At the same time, this work also echoes Nara’s introspective take on feelings of loneliness, alienation and resilience that characterise his art.


    Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Picture of the Miyato River, circa 1831-32, Image: Molteni & Motta/UIG / Bridgeman Images

    Not speaking German and unable to communicate clearly, certain feelings of isolation, which the artist had experienced during his childhood, came to the fore during his student years in Germany. As is characteristic of Nara, these feelings sparked inspiration for his work. The title of the present work alludes to the environmental pollutant called Dioxin, which during the 1990s raised deep concerns in Japan, a heavily industrialised nation. Unlike other iconic pieces that feature children with defiant expressions, which have been associated with Japanese manga culture, in Dioxin one finds an insight into the influence of the spiritual in Nara’s oeuvre, and the Shinto traditional beliefs in animism that consider everyday objects to be fundamentally alive. In this sense, this work invites the audience to penetrate the artist’s inner psyche and explore his sensitive response to phenomena that surround him, witnessing Nara’s symbiosis of sources of inspiration that create a unique visual language. 

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Shinwa Auction, Tokyo, 19 May 2018, lot 149
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner




signed, titled and dated 'Dioxin [in Kanji] Yoshitomo Nara '92' lower margin; signed titled and dated 'Yoshitomo Nara '92 Dioxin [in Kanji]' on the reverse
acrylic on paper
29 x 41 cm (11 3/8 x 16 1/8 in.)
Executed in 1992.

Full Cataloguing

£30,000 - 50,000 

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Simon Tovey
Specialist, Head of New Now Sale
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New Now

London Auction 9 December 2021