On the 2nd of December, several contemporary Japanese artworks were sold in Christie’s 20th Century: Hong Kong to New York auction. All far surpassed their estimates with Yayoi Kusama’s A-PUMPKIN-SPW (2014) going under the hammer for over three times its estimate, at £3,090,144. Takashi Murakami’s work Miss ko2 (1996) sold for nearly double its estimated price at £424,894. Last year it was estimated the Japanese art market was worth over £1 billion, with the recent success of Japanese art at auction in 2020, it is undeniable that the market is now far exceeding that estimate. We outline the top three names you need to know before navigating this thriving market.
Last week it was announced that Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room Mirrors exhibition will be taking place in 2021 at the Tate Modern. This is the latest in a series of exciting projects for Kusama, signalling her increasing popularity.
Born in 1927, Kusama is acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan. She is famed for her iconic pumpkins and bold spot motifs. Discussing her practice, the artist has said her intricate patterns ‘originate from hallucinations only [she] can see.’ She has been a voluntary resident of Seiwa Mental Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, since 1977. Today, her artwork continues to inspire people all around the world.
Takashi Murakami has become a household name in contemporary art. Blurring the line between fine art and popular Japanese culture, he is often likened to Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. Murakami describes his works as:
"The crossing point between fine art and entertainment” and his boundary-pushing artwork has led him to the creation of his own genre of art called Superflat. Superflat is a term that was coined by Murakami himself in 2001. It describes artworks that are influenced by manga and anime and have a focus on consumer culture. Murakami’s innovative style continues to inspire collectors globally and recent auction results show that Murakami’s market is flourishing."
TAKASHI MURAKAMI, GARDEN (WHITE), 2018
Yoshitomo Nara is one of the most beloved artists of his generation, known for his recognisable portraits of girls with large heads, with piercing eyes and a menacing expression. Nara’s artwork is associated with the Superflat movement and much like Murakami, his market is on the up. At the 2nd of December Christie’s auction, Yoshitomo Nara’s painting, Agent Orange (In the Milky Lake) (2006-2009) went under the hammer for £5,311,185 proving that the Japanese contemporary art market is burgeoning.
YOSHITOMO NARA, IN THE CLOUD, 2003