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Berlin Barak, Room 1
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2007 | Mixed media Installation
263×317×279 cm
Executed in 2007
Mixed media installation
263 × 317 × 279 cm. (103 ½ × 124 ¾ × 109 ¾ in.)
Hothouse Doll: titled and dated ‘Hothouse Doll 2007 07’; signed in Japanese (on the reverse)Within:1. Hothouse Doll: Painted in 2007, acrylic on canvas, 146 × 130.5 cm. (57 ½ × 51 ½ in.).2. Three Sisters (Berlin Version): Executed in 2007, acrylic on wood panel, 102.5 × 183 cm (40 ¼ × 72 in.).
Provenance
Galerie Zink, Berlin, GermanyChristie's Hong Kong, 26 May 2012, Lot 2041Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
Exhibited
Germany, Berlin, Galerie Zink, Yoshitomo Nara + graf: Berlin Baracke, 2007.Netherlands, The Hague, GEM, Museum of Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + graf-Into the Luminous Halo Around Us, 2 June-28 October, 2007.Denmark, Odense, Fyns Art Museum, Eye Opener, 15 March-30 May, 2011.
Literature
Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works Volume 1-Paintings, Sculptures, Editions, Photographs, Bijutsu Shuppan Sha, Tokyo, Japan, 2011 (illustrated, plate P-2007-004, p. 209; & plate B-2007-001, p. 233).Yoshitomo Nara "Moonlight Serenade", 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Kanazawa, Japan, 2007 (illustrated, p. 56).NARA 48 GIRLS, Beijing United Publishing Co., Ltd, Beijing, China, 2011 (illustrated, unpaginated)."The World of Yoshitomo Nara", Eureka, August Extra Edition No. 2017, Seidosha Co., Ltd, Tokyo, Japan, 2017 (illustrated); & March 2021 Issue, Big Art Co., Ltd, Taipei, Taiwan, 2021 (illustrated, plate 77, p. 111).
Remarks
A Unique and Unparalleled Artistic Statement from Yoshitomo Nara
Children, music, girls and wooden houses… these are the fairytale characters that are always by the side of Yoshitomo Nara and now have been brought together in this ideal space with the artist personally participating in its design and construction. The result is this large-scale house installation, Berlin Barack, Room 1
, an unprecedented and pioneering work in the contemporary art world, and a unique and unmatched statement by artist Yoshitomo Nara.
Two works placed inside the installation, Hothouse Doll
 and Three Sisters (Berlin Version)
, employ the different mediums of canvas and wood panel, but their themes and expressive methods connect them directly to the most important creative aspects of Nara's work. One is inside and one outside, and one is quiet while the other is dynamic, but both are masterpieces from Nara's series of two-dimensional painted works. The unique spaces of Nara's huge installation Berlin Barack, Room 1
 is beyond being specifically tailored by the artist for his paintings. It has produced a strong interaction between the time and place of their creation, their historical background, and their audience. From this point of view, Nara begins from a place that has already transcended geographical barriers and time constraints, and invites us to follow the installation's lines of motion and enter the house. There, his paintings no longer reflect only a single perspective; instead, in their broad vision and expansive outlook, they project into three dimensions the rich experience of Nara's 30-year creative career. In this highly charged metaphysical space, an unusual resonance develops as our vision and our senses are further extended.
 
Hothouse Doll
 at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
 
Yoshitomo Nara + graf, Berlin Barack, Work Process
 
Yoshitomo Nara + graf, Berlin Barack, Work Process
 
“I don't paint those cynical children anymore. They are still desolate, but not so transient. I think my works have already moved toward a deeper level. Whether or not this represents progress in my approach to painting is a matter of opinion, but from my perspective, I think it alludes to me starting to learn how to get along with people… I can now paint things that I previously never imagined I could. At the same time, it also suggests that I will never be able to go back to the past, but in my view, it's better to make some breakthroughs than to always stay the same…”
 
In the Name of the Muse—One of Only Two Hothouse Dolls in the Artist's Entire Oeuvre
Last year, Nara's 1995 Hothouse Doll
 set a record when it became the second highest auction price for a work by this artist. The most complete published album of Nara's works, Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works
, shows only two works named Hothouse Doll
. Their title may derive from the album Hot House by singer-songwriter Bruce Hornsby, also dating from 1995, which dealt mostly with social issues and featured lyrics with dark undertones. Perhaps for this reason, Nara's 1995 Hothouse Doll
 also expressed an intensely rebellious attitude. Twelve years later, however, in his book Nara: 48 Girls
, Nara wrote of his later, 2007 Hothouse Doll
: "...as an affirmation of myself... I must thank my muse! I must say 'THANK YOU' millions of times." The muse of Nara's works has seemingly grown up, matured, and transformed as the artist himself has grown older. Solely through the strength of his own creative imagination, Nara presents the lands of his mental realm in a series of changing visual fantasies, and his manifesto, in the form of this girl, is perhaps an outcry originating from depths of his heart.
Hothouse Doll
 employs dots of acrylic pigment in different colour gradations, patiently built up and layered by the artist. The girl's form appears and is "constructed" very naturally from them, beginning from the dark violet of the background and the dark green at the tips of her hair, and on to the fresh orange of her clothes and her white, shining face. All of this is due to the artist's careful planning of the entire work prior to painting, and to the careful consideration of each step in the process—but it also owes to the more settled mood and outlook of the artist, his greater broad-mindedness and composure, after the passage of some years. Gone are the previous brash and aggressive postures, replaced by a full and plump character whose gentle warmth dominates the center of the work and resounds throughout the painting. In her somewhat shy and freshly shining face we see a pair of differently coloured eyes, hard to ignore, aimed directly at our heartstrings. The provocative, challenging gazes issuing from the narrow faces of his early period are gone, replaced now by the bottomless gaze of these soft, round, glistening eyes. Nara's elaborate control of the details of his colours is fascinating, and increasingly draws us in. The dark purple of the background and the bright orange of the girl's clothing also appear in the irises of her eyes at left and right-the complementary colours of orange and violet echo each other, creating a harmonious balance and an organic movement within the canvas.
 
Yoshitomo Nara, Hothouse Doll
,1995, Poly Auction Hong Kong in association with Phillips, 3 December 2020, Sold for: HKD 103,115,000
 
The warm and cool tones in the girl's eyes were more than just a whim of the artist, something to add some extra visual energy. The idea behind painting the irises of her eyes different colours actually extends a concept that originated from Nara's long-held desire for peace. In 2005, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Nara painted an image of the bomb's mushroom cloud in the pupil of a girl's right eye; two years later, as the series reached its zenith, this Hothouse Doll
 was born. Her left eye is a deep, dark blue, like a night with a clear moon and few stars; her right eye is more radiant, like a bright new dawn. The subtle differences in her eyelashes, the internal spots of colour, and the shape of her eyes add a slightly unsettling tremor of emotion to what is otherwise a more static painting. Mika Kuraya, Chief Curator of the Department of Fine Arts at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, discussing the heterochromia of these eyes in Nara's work, says, "Their faces contain a temporal element, created by piecing together multiple expressions from different moments." Thus, the eyes of this Hothouse Doll
 suggest overlapping or alternative time sequences, and with her lips pressed together, we try to anticipate what her next expression will be. Nara combines a cute sweetness with a sharper, more aggressive feeling in the girl. This points up the complexity of human nature so that any viewer, regardless of age, ethnicity, or gender, will find something in her with which to identify because of their own unique individual experiences, and will read into her look something that moves them.
 
Yoshitomo Nara, Dream Time
 , 1988
 
Three Sisters: Classic Images that Take Root in the Heart
The artist's use of the special features of "billboard painting" here point directly toward the core of modern popular culture. As the most classic of Yoshitomo Nara's protagonists, his "three sisters" have repeatedly appeared in the artist's creations and their spinoff products as well. Last year, three-dimensional figurines, the 123 Drumming Girls
, were released. The eye-catching slogan "THREE SISTERS" in all caps at the top of the wooden panel of the painting states the main theme in the most direct and intuitive manner, and in a style that corresponds to that of the three main figures, with their thick outlines and opaque colours. Mika Kuraya, of Tokyo's National Museum of Modern Art, in the seminar "Before the Yoshitomo Nara Exhibition," explained that "Nara's billboard-style paintings have clear patterns, clear outlines, and sometimes messages quoted from rock music lyrics. Works using this approach can reach a great many people in a short time.... The average artist rarely has this kind of idea, but I think it's like what a rock musician once said: 'You have to get your message across to more people! Is there something wrong with that?'"
Standing just outside the house, Three Sisters (Berlin Version)
 depicts a small orchestra of triplets, in a performance where silence wins out over sound. A broad green field spreads at their feet, full of vitality and extending outward. Each wears the same uniform, a pointed hat with a number, while subtle differences in their hairstyles, postures, and facial expressions encode them with unique personalities: The Tao begets one, one begets two, two begets three, and three begets all things. These are the elves of the Nara kingdom. Each of them complements the others, generates the others, and each gazes at the others. Nara listened to English language music on the radio as a child, and even formed a rock band in his younger and crazier years. Today, we find melody naturally embedded in his paintings: the three sisters hold drumsticks, waving them up and down, playing and dancing at the same time. 1, 2, 3: this is musical notation, or successive waves of drumbeats whose energizing rhythms sound in the air.
Nara employs wood panels here to break through traditional thinking associated with the canvas surface, building a performance stage for the girls with his own hands. From the main panels inside to the wooden sections of the frame, every inch represents the artist's own unique sense of craftsmanship and personal effort, and the roughly finished wood preserves the original textures of the material. The painting becomes an outward extension of the walls of the house, and helps highlight the nature-based theme and melodies of the work. The joining of the wood pieces straightforwardly displays the texture of this basic material. The picture space at the same time is divided into equal parts horizontally, while the placement of the three sisters builds vertical and horizontal balance. The green grass beneath their feet extends around the outside of the picture space in an endless extension of their stage. Three Sisters (Berlin Version)
 thus is no longer just a frozen screenshot of a particular moment, but instead expresses the movement in time of an actual performance, in a composition formed purely from colour and text.
 
Yoshitomo Nara, 1,2,3 ...
, 2006
 
Yoshitomo Nara, Three Sisters (New Castle Version)
, 2008
 
Yoshitomo Nara, 123 Drumming Girl
 
The Hundred Faces of Nara's House Art
 
“…I had always wanted to find my way back to 'certainty.' Not for the sake of pleasing viewers visually, and absolutely not as some kind of display of talent, but just as a way of returning to someplace where I felt truly comfortable with myself.”
- Yoshitomo Nara
 
Since 1984, "the house" or "hut" has been the classic motif that stands out most clearly in Nara's works, and its appearance always signifies some kind of growth and transformation in the artist's thinking and techniques. His houses provide the perfect shelter and concealment for the children in his paintings, and sometimes, like bamboo shoots after a rain, they take root and grow up over the children's heads. Then, when these houses are transformed from brushstrokes into actual bricks and tiles, into nails and wood, it is as if a dream has finally come true, and these houses, with all their varying moods and appearances, land in our human world. With a rectangular base a few feet square, rough horizontal siding boards stacked up and down, and shaded by a translucent canopy, a prototype of extreme simplicity emerges: Berlin Barack, Room 1
 looks like an abandoned military blockhouse, discovered during some childhood exploration in an apple grove in Aomori. At the same time, it could also represent some small, safe world inhabited during the cold winters of the artist's study abroad in Berlin. This is no longer the early "YNG Project," in which viewers could only see the interior of a Nara house distantly through a hole in the wall or a window. Here, we lightly twist the doorknob and bend over a bit to enter, taking on the status of a real person inside an artistic work. We personally experience the artist's own inner world, and travel back with him to Berlin, where he lived for six years. If Japan was the soil where his character was originally formed, then Germany was the place where his dreams began to be realized.
Yoshitomo Nara and graf in front of Berlin Barack, Room 1
 
“But I think that my continual painting is a beacon that illuminates my own existence here. And what is illuminated here is not just me, and it is definitely not just the me that paints.... I feel that what I am walking on is not a road, but is more like the water that rushes along through a river. There are countless rivers like that in this world, and the vast ocean into which these rivers gather is perhaps what we mean by art.”
-Yoshitomo Nara, "Half a Lifetime (Presumably)"
 
From his 2001 I Don't Mind, If You Forget Me, to his S.M.L. in 2003 with the Japanese design team graf, to the launch of the A to Z project in his hometown of Hirosaki in 2005, Yoshitomo Nara has continued to challenge himself, his studio-form structures gradually evolving into physical reproductions of houses. In 2007, he once again began producing "house" works. This time, however, his Berlin Barack, Room 1
 is not just a scenic layout provided for a particular work. The introduction of the representative Nara works, Hothouse Doll
 and Three Sisters (Berlin Version)
, and the work's all-round perspective mean that a quiet work is echoed by a more dynamic one, one interior and one exterior. This is the double life of Yoshitomo Nara—a painter who was dormant for many years, practicing with great concentration, and a rock 'n roll youth, uninhibited and unrestrained, who challenged authority. There is a tunnel through time that connects Aomori and Berlin, and the innocent youth with adulthood, to make this concrete revelation of Nara's creative essence during the first half of his life. From design to construction, every inch of this multi-media fusion feast of poetic art has been finely tuned and refined, so as to reflect all the accumulated meaning of the artist's thoughts and feelings. This is Yoshitomo Nara's journey of return to what is true and authentic, and an ideal utopia wherein each viewer can also search for themselves.
 
Yoshitomo Nara with Director of graf Team
“August 29, 2007Yesterday and today,I went out for a short trip.A journey looking for myself?No, these journeys I always make with myself,As an affirmation of myself.Over time,You may write yourself off as scrap.But it doesn't matter now, 99%!I have to thank my muse!I have to say "THANK YOU" a million times over!”
Auction date:
21 Apr 2021
Auction house:
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