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Perhaps Japan’s best known living artist, Yoshitomo Nara’s iconic, seemingly simple, paintings, sculptures and drawings are instantly recognisable. His seemingly simple paintings, sculptures and drawings are instantly recognisable, taking influence from cartoons, music and his own life. Best known are perhaps his paintings of children; sometimes sad, sometimes sinister, these figures enjoy a global cult popularity and following, and reflective market pricing.

Knife Behind Back by Yoshitomo Nara

Image © Sotheby's / Knife Behind Back © Yoshitomo Nara 2000

1. £20.2M for Yoshitomo Nara's Knife Behind Back

Setting a record for the most expensive work by Japanese Pop Artist Yoshitomo Nara, in October 2019 Knife Behind Back (2000) sold for an astounding HK$195,696,000 (roughly equivalent to £20,229,095) at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.

A standout example of Nara’s work, the large-scale piece depicts one of the artist’s signature, cartoon-like figures – a small girl with intense, piercing eyes – as she stares back towards the viewer. With an unmistakable expression of anger on her face, the young girl is rendered in a muted colour palette of red, brown, green, and cream tones.

Establishing Nara as the most expensive Japanese artist of all time, the sale saw Knife Behind Back smash its sale record by almost 5 times.

Nice to See you again by Yoshitomo Nara

Image © Sotheby's / Nice to See You Again ©Yoshitomo Nara 1996

2. £11.4M for Yoshitomo Nara's Nice To See You Again

Significantly outperforming its pre-sale estimate of US$8,000,000-$12,000,000, Nice To See You Again realised an eye-watering US$15,430,800 at auction at Sotheby’s New York in November 2021. Executed in 1996 by Japanese Pop Art icon Yoshitomo Nara, the painting, which measures 180 by 150 cm, depicts one of the artist’s signature motifs: a young girl with short brown hair and glaring, elliptical green eyes. The second most expensive work by the artist, Nice To See You Again serves as visual and material evidence of Nara’s status as the highest-value Japanese artist of all time.

Oddly Cozy by Yoshitomo Nara

Image © Sotheby's / Oddly Cozy © Yoshitomo Nara 2013

3. £11.4M for Yoshitomo Nara's Oddly Cozy

Measuring 6 feet in length, this painting masterfully evokes the calm and tranquility that it is named for. Yoshitomo Nara's 2013 Oddly Cozy both mesmerises and pacifies the viewer, depicting a little girl wearing a placid expression, her intergalactic golden eyes sparkling luminously. The 2011 Japanese earthquake marked a significant transformation in Nara's artistic process, and it shows in Oddly Cozy.

Oddly Cozy sold for £11.4million at Sotheby's Contemporary Evening Auction in Hong Kong, surpassing its lowest estimate of £8 million.

Missing in Action by Yoshitomo Nara

Image © Christies 's / Missing in Action © Yoshitomo Nara 2000