Yoshitomo Nara Facts

Yoshitomo Nara is a Japanese artsist best known for his images of wide-eyed children. He also produces sculpture and installation artwork.

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Facts About Yoshitomo Nara

  • Yoshitomo Nara was born in 1959 in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, Japan.
  • He was the youngest of three children, and he spent much of his childhood in his own company.
  • As a child, Yoshitomo Nara liked to watch TV (especially cartoons such as Astro Boy, Gigantor, and Speed Racer), read comic books (both Japanese and American), and read fables by Aesop and fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.

When you are a kid, you are too young to know you are lonely, sad, and upset. Now I know I was.

Yoshitomo Nara
  • Through the 1960s and 1970s, he also enjoyed listening to Western music on the Far East Network American military radio station.
  • As a teenager, Yoshitomo Nara moved to Tokyo.
  • From 1979 to 1981, he studied at the Musashino Art University.
  • When he was 21, he moved to Nagoya to study Fine Art at the Aichi University of the Arts.
  • From 1988 to 1993, when he was in his late 20s, Yoshimoto Nara attended Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in Germany. He studied under the Neo-Impressionist artist A. R. Penck.
  • He produced the art for a poster for the Swedish film Letta Leaves Home.
  • In the 1990s, he produced art work for the The Star Club (a Japanese punk band) and Shonen Knife, and he collaborated on a book project with the author Banana Yoshimoto.
  • He has gone on to create album artwork for lots of bands and artists, including REM, Matthew Sweet, AlasNoAxis, Day & Taxi, and Tiki Tiki Bamboos.
  • According to photographer Mie Moimoto, Yoshitomo Nara plays loud punk rock music as he creates his art, and works whenever he feels like it.
  • After graduating, Yoshitomo Nara moved to Cologne, and he began to develop his unique style by making scrawled cartoon drawings of children and dogs, combining elements from Japanese and Western pop culture.
  • In 1995 he secured a solo exhibition at LA’s Bathhouse gallery. The work he showed was made up of cartoonish portraits of young people and combined the themes of childhood loneliness, alienation, anxiety, and rebellion.
  • After returning from Germany in 2000, Yoshitomo Nara began to refine his style, blending manga and comic book influences with images influenced by traditional Japanese woodblock prints.
  • He became associated with the Superflat art movement spearheaded by Takashi Murakami, although Nara’s work was less obviously focused on consumerism.
  • A show at the Yokohama Museum of Art called I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me brought together all of the works he’d produced in the 1990s. It included paintings, drawings, and stuffed animals.
  • Over his career, Yoshitomo Nara has taken a multi-disciplinary approach to making art, and he has produced paintings, drawings, photography, and sculptures (in bronze, ceramics, and plastic).
  • He currently lives in Nasushiobara, a small city about 90 miles north of Tokyo, Japan.

If I can explain it in words, then I don’t think there’s any need to make it into a picture.

Yoshitomo Nara
  • Although the children in Yoshitomo’s work can seem cute or innocent at first glance, they are often shown to be possessing feelings of angst or are made to look menacing by their expressions, their pose, or what they are doing in the painting.
  • His first New York exhibition took place at the Asia Society and was called Nobody’s Fool. It was made up of more than 100 works (paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations).
  • Yoshitomo Nara was disturbed by the 2011 earthquake at Fukushima. He visited the devasted areas numerous times.
  • His work has been shown in cities all over the world, including Koln, Tokyo, Santa Monica, Amsterdam, Nagoya, Berlin, London, New York, Cleveland, and Chicago.
  • He enjoys listening to the music of The Star Club and Neil Young.
  • Characters on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show and the Dawson’s Creek TV show have worn T-shirts showing Nara’s artwork.
  • He admires the way that the artists Henri Matisse was able to evolve during his career.
  • Yoshitomo Nara produced a book for children called The Lonesome Puppy.
  • He usually wears jeans, band T-shirts, and hoodies.
  • His favourite musicians and bands include: Bob Dylan, the Ramones, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Clash, Nick Cave, Nirvana, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, and the Beastie Boys.
  • In 2019, Yoshitomo’s Knife Behind Back (2000) sold for $25 million at auction in Hong Kong.

I don’t paint when I’m happy. I only paint when I am angry, lonely, sad, when I am able to talk the work.

Yoshitomo Nara