Considered one of Japan’s most important artists alive today, Yoshitomo Nara has had a slow burn of a career. He is known for his images of menacing wide-eyed Manga-style children that tap into universal angst. The inspiration for these works, which he first began in the ’90s, ranges vastly, drawing disparate sources from rock music to children’s fables to Japanese cartoons and more. New York Times critic Roberta Smith once described his works as bridging “high, low and kitsch; East and West; grown-up, adolescent and infantile.”
Nara is currently the subject of a career retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (through January 2022) that is set to travel to Shanghai, Spain, and the Netherlands. The exhibition is the largest one dedicated to the artist in the U.S. to date, and features 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics, and more.
In recent years, an uptick in attention from critics and art historians has also fueled Nara’s fast rise on the art market. In 2019, Sotheby’s sold his Knife Behind Back (2000) for a record-setting $25 million in Hong Kong. Since that sale, he has become one of the most expensive artists in Asia and an in-demand staple in international contemporary art auctions.
Below, a list of Nara’s top auction prices: