Nara Yoshitomo_Untiteled_ MUCA Jubiläumsausstellung "25"

Yoshitomo Nara at the MUCA Munich exhibition

Who is Yoshitomo Nara?

Yoshitomo Nara was born in 1959 in the Japanese prefecture of Aomori. In recent decades, he has become one of Japan's most famous contemporary artists. Nara's cute "kawaii" figures became synonymous with the Neo Pop movement that emerged in Japan in the 1990s.

Nara attended the Aichi University of the Arts until 1987 and went to Germany after graduating. Here he enrolled at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. He returned to his native Japan in 2000.

Nara's artworks have been on display in exhibitions in Asia, Europe and the United States since the late 1990s.

How does Nara work?

Nara is known for powerful portraits with eyes that look back at the viewer. He also makes three-dimensional works in wood, GRP, ceramics and bronze, as well as installations of small houses.

Nara emphasises that his work is not influenced by manga (a major theme associated with the Neo Pop movement). However, one could argue that the cartoon-like characters in his work reflect the post-war influences of American film and companies like Disney on Japanese visual culture. 

YOSHITOMO NARA at the "25 YEARS" exhibition in Munich

A "Kawaii" work by Nara on display in the current MUCA anniversary exhibition.

Without the appropriation of imagery characteristic of Pop Art, this ethereal 2001 work on paper gives an insight into the way Nara indirectly absorbed cultural influences and created a new popular aesthetic
that appeals to its contemporary audience.