Yoshitomo Nara (1959)
Born in 1959, Yoshitomo Nara studied fine arts at Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music in Japan. He then left Japan to study at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in Germany. At the end of his studies he moved to Cologne. Yoshitomo Nara’s name and work became known in the 1990s, which saw the explosive boom of the Japanese ‘pop art’ scene. His sulky figures, recognisable by their disproportionately large heads and their mischievous airs, were speedily received with international success. He made himself known to the general public by his illustrations for the Japanese groups The Star Club and Shonen Knife.
His works feature children and animals sometimes bearing knives or weapons. His inspiration came from his own childhood experiences and memories. ‘The works I create are not self-portraits,’ he explained. ‘They represent children or friends. I hope that the public will take ownership of them, and that they even find a place in art history, and that they survive after my body has perished, and when there are no longer human beings on Earth.’
Among his influences he also cites graphic novels, music, and Renaissance painting.
In 1998, he began to teach at the University of California. Two years later in 2000, he moved back to Japan. Since the early 2000s, his works have been exhibited in some of the largest museums in the world (Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Vienna, Brussels, etc.), and at the Contemporary art fairs where his works sell for high prices. The photographer Mie Morimoto spent six months with the artist to document his work process, which gave birth to the book Birth and Present: A Studio Portrait of Yoshitomo Nara. ‘In his daily routine, life and work are one and the same’, explained Morimoto. Yoshitomo Nara lives in Tokyo.
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