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Where Christie’s has provided a Minimum Price Guar… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Lampflower Girl

Lampflower Girl
signed and titled in Japanese, dated ‘93’ (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
150.3 x 140 cm. (59 1⁄8 x 55 1⁄8 in.)
Painted in 1993
Galerie Humanite, Nagoya
The Shun Kurokochi collection
You Are Not Alone – Yoshitomo Nara works from The Kurokochi collection, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 5 April 2013, lot 810
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Kadokawa Shoten, Yoshitomo Nara: In the Deepest Puddle, Tokyo, 1997 (illustrated, unpaginated).
Bijutsu Shuppan Sha, Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works 1984 - 2010, Tokyo, 2011 (illustrated, plate P-1993-054, p. 94).
Nagoya, Galerie Humanite, Be Happy, 12 - 30 October 1993. This exhibition later travelled to Tokyo, Galerie Humanite, 29 November - 18 December 1993.
Sendai, The Miyagi Museum of Art, Ironic Fantasy, July – September 1996.
Yokohama Museum of Art, I Don't Mind, If You Forget Me., 11 August - 14 October 2001. This exhibition later travelled to Ashiya City Museum of Art & History, 19 January - 31 March 2002; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, 7 April - 2 June 2002; Hokkaido Asahikawa Museum of Art, 14 June - 28 July 2002; Hirosaki, Yoshii Brick Brewhouse, 4 August - 29 September 2002.
Yokohama Museum of Art, Works by Nara Yoshitomo in Yokohama Museum of Art Collection, 21 January - 20 March 2011.
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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

Yoshitomo Nara’s Lamp Flower Girl represents an important stage in the artist’s career, which he spent roaming between the poles of Eastern and Western visual cultures. His career in a real sense began with his graduation from the world-renowned Dusseldorf Academy of Fine Arts in 1993. That was the year in which he created this Lamp Flower Girl— a large-scale work that brings together many of the tropes for which he would eventually become known: a full-length portrait of a girl in a red dress, her eyes squinting mischievously, and a mysterious background of mottled dark purple with pale lights that seem to glow softly in the darkness. To date, only five works have appeared from Nara with similar “Lamp Flower Girl” subjects, and this, one of the most fully developed, was once owned by Shun Kurokochi, an important collector of Nara’s work. It has also been shown in a number of important museum exhibitions, including Nara’s first solo exhibition in 2021, I Don’t Mind, If You Forget Me, held at the Yokohama Museum of Art upon his return to Japan after his 12-year sojourn in Germany. Its inclusion in that exhibition makes clear its pivotal position in the creative journey of this artist.

The small figure in Lamp Flower Girl sports short blonde hair and a bright red dress, while wearing an innocent expression on her face — though her gaze clearly reveals something beyond simple naivete. We sense aggressiveness in the half-moon eyes that gaze at us, and a warning to strangers to keep their distance. It is the vivid expressions of characters such as this that reach the emotions of Nara’s viewers; we experience the truth of human nature as we share their happiness, sadness, anger, and joy. The characters he paints share similar features: big eyes, small nose, a thin line for a mouth, and a large head above a smaller body. His simple and direct linear modeling emphasizes flatness rather than three-dimensionality, a feature that can be traced to traditional Japanese painting. Nara did not choose as models for his paintings the daughter of some relative or friend, or the son of some person of wealth. He is uninterested in exhibiting the status of his characters, or creating art for art’s sake through explorations of technique and theory. Nara’s true concern is with revealing the inner selves of his characters through their rich expressions.

The little girl who is this painting’s protagonist cannot be ignored. The artist simplifies any complex elements, using a simple purple background to highlight his central figure with a powerful, immediate presence, in a manner similar to traditional Japanese lacquerware. In Japanese lacquer art, thick black paint covers the surface of the utensils, while gold is sprinkled on and patterns are added with other materials; the finished object exerts a strong visual appeal and the figures on its surface stand out vividly. Here, Nara produces textural effects in his subject’s hair by rubbing the canvas with a textured dry brush; by contrast the brushwork in her face, clothing, limbs, and flower is finer, smoother, and flatter. Closer inspection also shows subtle touches of colour in the girl’s cheeks. Proficient in the style and language of illustration, Nara’s Lamp Flower Girl retains the simplicity and clarity of the illustrator’s style. Our attention is drawn first to the striking image of the girl. Nara’s ingenious approach and his already mature skill are shown in the richly textured and layered brushstrokes, each stroke worthy of savoring on its own by the viewer. Some anime DNA can also be found here, in the thick black lines with which he outlines his subject and the economical modeling of her form. The black lines cleverly divide her form into geometric blocks of different colors, while also drawing them together into a whole. Objective form is sublimated into a purely abstract relationship of lines and planes, as scenic depth and three-dimensionality are abandoned, echoing the stylistic character of Japan’s historical Ukiyo-e paintings. Each aspect of Lamp Flower Girl illustrates this artist’s skillful handling of the many different visual elements that construct this painting.

Perhaps no other artist in the world of contemporary art has focused as much on child subjects as Yoshitomo Nara. The question of why children have not been more widely seen as artistic subjects worthy of serious attention is something to consider. Could a child be the most important portrait figure in the history of art? Nara has to date held countless solo exhibitions, and while it is difficult to simultaneously attract the attention of both commercial markets and academia, Nara has succeeded: his artistic creations featuring children have received enthusiastic welcome in both spheres around the world. The facts show that Nara’s young subjects have successfully captured the hearts of a great many viewers, especially among adults who have already left their childhood years behind. Steadfastly insisting on making children the protagonists of his works, he reveals his feelings without inhibition, as he does here in Lamp Flower Girl, laying bare without any qualms the inner thoughts of his subject. Adults will always respond to and identify with Nara’s paintings, because with their every move, his children remind us that life should always be free and easy, lived without a care in the world.

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