(Japanese, B. 1959)
Berlin Barack, Room 1; Hothouse Doll; & Three Sisters (Berlin version) canvas: signed with artist's monogram; titled 'Hothouse Doll' in English; dated '2007' (on the reverse)
mixed media installation; acrylic on canvas; & acrylic on wood panel
installation: variable dimensions;
canvas: 145.5 x 130 cm. (57 1/4 x 51 1/8 in.);
panel: 102.5 x 183 cm. (40 3/8 x 72 in.)
Executed and Painted in 2007 (3)
Galerie Zink, Berlin, Germany
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Bijutsu Shuppan Sha, Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works Volume 1 - Paintings, Sculptures, Editions, Photographs, Tokyo, Japan, 2011 (illustrated, plate P-2007-004, p. 209; & plate B-2007-001, p. 233).
Berlin, Germany, Galerie Zink, Yoshitomo Nara + Graf: Berlin Baracke, 2007.
Odense, Denmark, Fyns Art Museum, Eye Opener, 15 March 2011-30 May 2011.

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Felix Yip
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Lot Essay

Yoshitomo Nara is a representative figure of Japanese contemporary art. Although Nara was educated in a formal art academy, he is equally influenced by popular culture and children's picture books, and his works span across a wide variety of forms, from painting, sculpture, and installation works. His approachable aesthetics successfully challenge and expand the interpretation of art, and breaks the barrier between traditional fine art and Japanese post-World War II pop culture; with his profound understanding of traditional culture and fine art, and his ability to translate it into disarming new forms, Nara underscores the uniqueness of Japanese contemporary art and its influence on the world.
Berlin Barrack, Room No. 1; Hothouse Doll; Three Sisters (Lot 2041), from a private European contemporary art European collection, is classic Nara's, created for an "out of the box" exhibition. "YNG" is the abbreviation for Yoshitomo Nara and a Japanese designing group called GRAF, they have forged a close partnership and began installation art exhibition all over the world since 2003. This piece of work is part of their 2007 exhibition at Berlin ZINK Gallery: Barrack Room No. 1 is composed of a simple grayish white wooden house with a main door approximately metre high, a scale that corresponds to that of a traditional Japanese tea room (Fig 1). The tea ceremony and its setting is a time-honoured Japanese tradition; the rituals of the ceremony is closely affiliated with meditation, and the tea room becomes a place of escape for the modern urbanite. The main door is deliberate designed to be of such a small size, compelling the audience to bend down even if only to look inside, a structure that requires a physical engagement with the space and which mimicks the tea room guests' own bending posture when they enter the room, entering such a unique spirit-cleansing space with humble mind. Directly opposite the entrance is Nara's painting, Hothouse Doll, an arrangement that evokes the scene when the guests stand facing the tabernacle after entering the tea room, and perform an important ritual of paying respect to sacred scripts. Yoshitomo Nara cleverly integrated the fine culture of Japanese tea ceremony into contemporary art display without leaving traces of the design, and brought out a surprising effect of viewing, arousing the audience's affection toward the Hothouse Doll on the wall.
Yoshitomo Nara recalled his teenage time when he learnt about Vietnam War from television and photographs, and experienced its reality and cruelty for the first time; at the same time, the Punk and Rock-and-Roll music scene provided an outlet for the artist to express his discontent; since this music resonated with Nara's own feelings of rebelliousness, music then naturally became one of the main themes of his work, he developed great sympathy and rage towards the inequities of the world, and, as he developed his own personal style, made the figure of the young, solitary girl, embodying both innocence and danger, speak for his discontent. The little girls he painted are often shaped as passionate Rock and Rollers, but from the Three Sisters, a horizontally hanging wooden banner, we can see the artist refrained from his rage, and depicted the playful side of the little girls; the title has made explicit their intimate relationship, and the number on their hats explained that they are present as a team, the girls on each sides are gazing quietly at the girl in the middle and are ready to perform, while the girl in the middle is shaking the music instrument in her hands, enjoying herself. When Nara was studying abroad in Germany in the 1980s, he felt lonely and abandoned due to his lack of comfort in the German language, thus he threw himself into his drawings to express himself, and music was another outlet that he turned to. The three sisters' unification and unsaid coordination suggest how the artist, recalling his own experiences as a lonely stranger, longed to communicate and be understood.
Yoshitomo Nara's works are noted not just for his synthesis of different threads in Japanese culture, but also for the surprising psychological depth of his figures. As in Hothouse Doll, the little girl is supposed to look like a gentle sweetheart loved and treasured by her family, on the contrary, she is not willing to appear as innocent and sweet as she is expected by the adult world, she is a complex emotional compound, comprised of happiness, sadness, rage and joyfulness human beings are born with; her great big eyes are as bright as a pair of twinkling stars in the sky, but at the same time they seem to be filled with tons of untold misery, this little girl is consistent with the loneliness exhibited throughout Nara's works, which may be telling the story of countless of audience. At the same time, the girl appears herself to be innocently suffering, her pupils retreat into darkness, her eyes staring into the world in rebellion and confrontation. In Nara's work, children are depicted with an unnatural ratio between their head and body, their large, doll-like heads balanced on small torsos with shortened limbs. The Three Sisters appear as if they are comprised of triangles, circles and rectangles, a modeling that corresponds to Cubism (Fig 2). The girl in Hothouse Doll has chubby cheeks, a flat nose, tightly closed lips and a pair of round eyes filled with rage and fury, It is not hard to find the similarity between the girl and Chorei Beshimi (Fig 3) (the face of the master of hell) in traditional Japanese Noh drama; the plain background makes the character the only focus of the picture, such rendering echoes with the technique of leaving blank spaces in traditional Eastern water-and-ink painting. By looking at the figures in Ukiyoe (Fig 4), we can see the association between Nara's work and traditional Japanese art, which usually makes use of highly imaginative images to deliver characters' emotions. Through these divergent means, Nara moves his audience through a highly structured arrangement of physical experiences, visual and psychological associations, one that literally transports us to and honours the fragile space of childhood.

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