Yoshitomo Nara (b.1959) Japanese Artist and Designer

Yoshitomo Nara featured image
Yoshitomo Nara featured image

Yoshimoto Nara is a Japanese artist. He lives and works in Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, though his artwork has been exhibited worldwide. Nara has had nearly 40 solo exhibitions since 1984. His artwork has been housed at the MoMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (LACMA). His most well-known and repeated subject is a young girl with piercing eyes.


Nara grew up in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, about 300 miles north of the Tochigi Prefecture. His exposure to Western music on the American military radio station Far East Network in Honshu influenced his artistic imagination early. Later, he would provide cover art for bands including Shonen Knife, R.E.M., and Bloodthirsty Butchers. He received his B.F.A. (1985) and an M.F.A. (1987) from the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music. Between 1988 and 1993, Nara studied at the Kunstakademie DĂĽsseldorf in Germany.


In June 2005, Nara’s artwork was featured in the “Suspended Animation” album by the experimental band FantĂ´mas. Other commercial products (including videos, books, magazines, catalogues and monographs) have been dedicated to Nara’s work. A two-volume catalogue raisonnĂ© of all his sculptures, paintings, and drawings was recently completed.

In 2010, the Asia Society showed Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool, the first major New York exhibition of his work. Other major retrospectives include: “I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me”, which toured Japan between 2001 and 2002, and “Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens,” which travelled the United States from 2003 to 2005. One of his exhibited works is now part of a window of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England.


Though Nara claims to have never said he was influenced by manga, the imagery of manga and anime of his 1960s childhood is often cited when discussing Nara’s stylized, large-eyed figures.Nara subverts these images, however, by infusing his works with horror-like imagery. This juxtaposition of human evil with the innocent child may be a reaction to Japan’s rigid social conventions.

Nara cites his musical education as a foundational influence on his art. The punk rock music of Nara’s youth has also influenced his work.

Nara’s upbringing in post-World War II Japan profoundly affected his mindset and, subsequently, his artwork as well. He grew up when Japan was experiencing an inundation of Western pop culture; comic books, Warner Bros and Walt Disney animation, and Western rock music are just a few examples. Additionally, Nara was raised in the isolated countryside as a latchkey child of working-class parents, so he was often left alone with little to do but explore his young imagination. The fiercely independent subjects that populate so much of his artwork may be a reaction to Nara’s own largely independent childhood.


  • 2018 – “Yoshitomo Nara: Ceramic Works and …” – Pace, Hong Kong
  • 2018 – “Drawings: 1988-2018 Last 30 Years” – Kaikai Kiki, Tokyo
  • 2017 – “for better or worse” – Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Aichi
  • 2016 – “Yoshitomo Nara: New Works” – Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
  • 2015 – “Shallow Puddles” – Blum and Poe, Tokyo[23]
  • 2014 – “Yoshitomo Nara” – Blum and Poe, Los Angeles
  • 2009 – “15TH ANNIVERSARY INAUGURAL EXHIBITION” – Blum and Poe, Los Angeles
  • 2008 – “Yoshitomo Nara and installation by Y.N.G.” – Blum and Poe, Los Angeles
  • 2004 – “Yoshitomo Nara – New Works” – Blum and Poe, Los Angeles
  • 2003 – “Inaugural Group Show” – Blum and Poe, Los Angeles
  • 2001 – “YOSHITOMO NARA In the White Room: An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings” – Blum and Poe, Santa Monica
  • 1999 – “YOSHITOMO NARA An Exhibition of Sculpture in Two Parts (PARTS I & II)” – Blum and Poe, Santa Monica
  • 1997 – “Yoshitomo Nara” – Blum and Poe, Santa Monica
  • 1995 – “YOSHITOMO NARA: PACIFIC BABIES – Los Angeles International ’95 In Cooperation with SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo” – Blum and Poe, Santa Monica

A Selection from MoMA

Yoshimoto Nara in our partner stores


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

Wikipedia contributors. (2022, January 1). Yoshitomo Nara. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:37, January 9, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yoshitomo_Nara&oldid=1063132731

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