Over the past decade, there has been an exponential increase in interest in contemporary Japanese art with artists including Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama paving the way for a new generation of Japanese creatives. Compared with its neighbouring Asian countries, Japanese art has been widely accepted into the contemporary art scene and although its style is distinctive, its reach is universal. From brand collaborations to record breaking auction results, we look at the events taking place in 2021 that prove the rising demand for contemporary Japanese art shows no sign of slowing.
YAYOI KUSAMA, TOADSTOOLS, 1993
On 8th June 2021, Phillips Hong Kong-Beijing lead their dual-location 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale with Yoshitomo Nara’s germinal artwork, Missing in Action (2000). Renowned as one of his rarest works on canvas, the piece was last sold in 2015 to an anonymous Asian collector who paid just under £2 million for the artwork. Yesterday, the work was sold for $13.5M at auction, showing its astronomical appreciation in value over the past 6 years.
YOSHITOMO NARA, DAMN IT ALL, 2012
On 12th May 2021, the collection of the late Dr Teruo Hirose was sold at Bonhams’ Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale in New York. Consisting of a group of 11 early works by Yayoi Kusama, the collection of artworks sold for nearly double their estimated price. The assemblage of works, which had not been seen by the public for over six decades, sold for $15.2 million, well exceeding their pre-sale expectation of $8.8 million.
Visual contemporary artist Takashi Murakami has collaborated with Grand Hyatt Tokyo to create the world’s first Takashi Murakami Flower Art Gallery Room. Turning the Chairman Suite into an immersive art experience, the room features fourteen works by the renowned creative, including sculptures, paintings and toys by the artist. In addition to the artwork, the special package includes a Murakami themed meal, sweet box and autographed book.
TAKASHI MURAKAMI, GARDEN (WHITE), 2018
On 21st April 2021, Yoshitomo Nara’s mixed media installation was sold at Poly Auction Hong Kong's Modern and Contemporary Art Sale. The installation, a 2.6 metre tall wooden house adorned with two acrylic paintings by the same artist went under the hammer for $15.5 million. It was last sold at auction in 2012 when it was bought for $1.5 million meaning that the value of the work increased tenfold in under a decade. Not only is this the highest price ever paid for a Nara installation at auction, but also the auction result makes Berlin Barack, Room 1 (2007), the second most expensive work by Nara ever sold at auction.
YOSHITOMO NARA, DOGGY RADIO, 2011
One of the most hotly anticipated art shows of 2021, Yayoi Kusama’s iconic exhibition Infinity Mirror Rooms has finally gone on display at Tate Modern after being postponed due to the pandemic. With tickets going live at the beginning of May, Kusama’s exhibition is already fully booked up until the end of October and with each viewer only allowed a two minute dive into the immersive world of Kusama, it is evident that the popularity and success of the Japanese artist is immense.
YAYOI KUSAMA, PUMPKIN AND FRUITS, 1993
This year, Takashi Murakami has been chosen by organisers of New York’s biannual Outsider Art Fair to create a monumental sculpture exhibition in SoHo, New York City. The show is entitled Super-Rough, a nod to Superflat, a term coined by Murakami to describe his distinctly Japanese pop-inspired art. Using Murakami’s expertise on the importance of all visual culture, the folk-inspired exhibition will be curated by the celebrated Japanese artist and endeavours to endorse Murakami’s message that all art is art worth appreciating.
TAKASHI MURAKAMI, AND THEN AND THEN AND THEN AND THEN AND THEN, 1999