This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When au… Read more PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Living in the box

Living in the box
signed and dated 'Nara 2004 Sugito' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
70 x 64.3 cm. (27 1⁄2 x 25 3⁄8 in.)
Painted in 2004
Arndt & Partner, Berlin and Zurich.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007.
Y. Nara, Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works, Volume 1, New York 2011, no. PC-2004-016 (illustrated in colour, p. 225).
Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne, Over the Rainbow, 2004-2005 (illustrated in colour, p. 22). This exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.
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Lot Essay

“Time passes by.
Before it fades and vanishes.
I want to grab even a bit and make it last…
Imagination doesn’t stop for the past or the future.
And that makes me both happy and sad.”
– Yoshitomo Nara

A collaboration between two of the finest Japanese contemporary artists, Yoshimoto Nara and Hiroshi Sugito, Living in the Box constitutes one of the thirty-five paintings produced for their joint project, Over the Rainbow. In 2004, Nara and Sugito were invited by the Austrian Galerie Belvedere to live and work in Vienna for three months. Over the Rainbow, a reference to the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical The Wizard of Oz, documents the results of their artistic encounter in the context of a new locality. While Nara is known for his paintings and drawings of children, which recall the tradition of popular manga, Sugito creates landscape works that are more subtle and delicate, reflecting Eastern as well as Western influences. Both artists are inspired by the theme of childhood, its mesmerizing dreams, unspoken nostalgia, and magical forms of identification. Taking flight into the world of childhood imagination, one reexamines his or her relationship to the past through the dimension of malleability and smallness.

With her body and her face half hidden, Nara and Sugito’s child covertly gazes out of the box; her eyes meet ours. A recurrent motif in many of Nara’s paintings, the eyes function almost as a signature of some sort. Narrowed and elongated, they usually convey mediated emotions, seldom do they look solely happy or frustrated. They also suggest vision, a way of encountering the world beyond that which she inhabits.

The child maintains a symbiotic relationship with the box. She lives inside it, it serves as her shield against the outside world. An object frequently found in one’s childhood, the box evokes a multitude of associations. It is transgressive and furtive in character, implying something illicit might be done inside its tall “walls.” Moreover, it serves as a repository, a repository of memory or thoughts. Its existence is contingent on the capacity of memory for metamorphosis, an endless recycling of meaning and proliferation of its ramifications (Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire”, Representations 26, p.19). These characteristics, in turn, are mapped onto the figure of the child as she participates in the constant interplay of memory and history.

Just as the mischievous child seems to inhabit in an indeterminate space in the painting, she lives in suspended time. The act of painting the child resembles stoppages or temporary suspensions as her body would continue to grow and transform. The idea of progression and change is therefore embedded within Nara’s depiction of children. Concurrently innocent and evil, adorable and perverse, the solitary child embodies nothing but the reciprocal gaze from the adult world.

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