Yoshitomo Nara_07

Installation view, "Yoshitomo Nara: Reach Out to The Moon, Even If We Can't," Feb 26 – Jun 25, 2023, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth © Yoshitomo Nara. Photo: Dan McCabe

Museum Exhibitions

Yoshitomo Nara at The Art Gallery of Western Australia

Feb 26 – Jun 25, 2023
The Art Gallery of Western Australia

The Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) is honoured to present celebrated Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara’s first Australian solo exhibition. Opening on February 26, 2023, the exhibition (opens in a new window) Yoshitomo Nara: Reach Out to The Moon, Even If We Can't brings together major sculptural works alongside paintings, drawings, ceramics, and photography.

Nara rose to international prominence in the 1990s for his exquisitely rendered, instantly recognisable portraits of alternately sweet and vicious big-headed figures and melancholic figurative sculptures. Nara’s work in all mediums is the result of his innovative distillation of an enormous array of references and inspirations. These include memories of growing up in rural Northern Japan amidst the lingering presence of World War II, political events of the 1960s and 1970s, the sound and graphics of pop, rock and folk music, literature, art from Japan’s Edo and modern period, as well as the new expressionism he encountered while studying and living in Germany in the late 1980s and 1990s. All of which, and more, is finely honed into work that is both intimate and worldly, full of rebellious protest and powerful poise.

Yoshitomo Nara_No war love & peace_©YOSHITOMO NARA, 2020

Yoshitomo Nara, No war love & peace, 2020, fiber-reinforced polymer, 46 x 48 x 32 cm © Yoshitomo Nara, 2020

Yoshitomo Nara_When you feel so sad_©YOSHITOMO NARA, 2012

Yoshitomo Nara, When you feel so sad, 2012, fiber-reinforced polymer, 97.5 x 87.9 x 84.8 cm © Yoshitomo Nara, 2012

Yoshitomo Nara_Miss Tannen_©YOSHITOMO NARA, 2012

Yoshitomo Nara, Miss Tannen, 2012, fiber-reinforced polymer, 215.6 x 50.8 x 43.2 cm © Yoshitomo Nara, 2012

Yoshitomo Nara_Midnight Pilgrim_©YOSHITOMO NARA, 2012

Yoshitomo Nara, Midnight pilgrim, 2012, fiber-reinforced polymer, 156.8 x 54.6 x 74.9 cm © Yoshitomo Nara, 2012

Spanning 2011-2022, Yoshitomo Nara: Reach Out to The Moon, Even If We Can't will allow Australian audiences access to key works from Nara’s recent output. This is a time in which Nara has been processing the devastating impact of the Fukushima disaster of 11 March 2011, that saw his hometown region hit by the combined effects of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor breakdown. In the face of this, Nara found himself unable to make art. He found his way back to his practice through his body as he started making clay sculptures that physically engaged him; from this intuitive process came a renewed focus on three-dimensional forms that then expanded in scale and stretched across other mediums. Taking the guise of (mostly) human heads, the resulting works grew to be a deep and prolonged meditation on the interconnected vulnerability of all life on this planet. Equally, each work is inflected with a kind of cautious optimism that has, in fact, been central to Nara’s work since the 1980s as he consistently honours the power of individual expression and imagination, especially in the darkest of times.

AGWA Director, Colin Walker, said: "Yoshitomo Nara is one of the world's most important and popular artists, and I’ve personally been a long-time fan. Over his career, Nara has captured the imagination of millions, and I’m thrilled that AGWA now has the privilege of connecting his practice directly with people here. I’m also incredibly excited to do so with such a powerful selection of his emotionally-loaded figurative works. I think it will be one of our most loved exhibitions yet.”

Yoshitomo Nara_Love from the sea_©YOSHITOMO NARA, 2020

Yoshitomo Nara, Love from the sea, 2020, pen on paper, 29.7 x 21.1 cm © Yoshitomo Nara, 2020

Yoshitomo Nara_Mini drawing_©YOSHITOMO NARA, 2016

Yoshitomo Nara, Mini drawing, 2016, colored pencil and ballpoint pen on paper, 11.5 x 9.7 cm © Yoshitomo Nara, 2016

Dramatically presented in AGWA's largest gallery space, the sculptural works will form a series of interrelated islands that span a range of feeling states. Individually and collectively, they demonstrate Nara's unsurpassed ability to convey emotional nuance with clarity and moving intensity.

The feeling of these works is echoed by surrounding drawings, paintings and ceramics in Nara's distinctive style, such as Girl with eyepatch and Peace in Your Heart. Some show the development of specific sculptural works, while others, like Love or Nuclear, connect to the anti-nuclear theme he has engaged with for decades now.

Yoshitomo Nara_Reach out to the moon, even if we can't_©YOSHITOMO NARA, 2016

Yoshitomo Nara, Reach out to the moon, even if we can't, 2016, ceramic, 38 x 23 x 23 cm © Yoshitomo Nara, 2016

Yoshitomo Nara_Bud vase Mt Fuji_©YOSHITOMO NARA, 2011

Yoshitomo Nara, Bud vase Mt Fuji, 2011, ceramic, 17 x 17 cm © Yoshitomo Nara, 2011

“Nara’s works emerge from his engagement with serious issues but are always full of a kind of off-kilter hopefulness and a gentle humility that comes from his sensitivity to living, like all of us, in a world we cannot ever really control. I’m confident that the deeply felt, large-scale poetic reflectiveness of this show will resonate with audiences across Australia as we enter another year, more hopeful than the last," said Colin Walker.

The exhibition is part of AGWA's ongoing commitment to enrich and deepen Western Australia's connections with contemporary art practices and cultural thinking in Asia.

Western Australian Minister for Culture and the Arts David Templeman said the exhibition would be eagerly anticipated by fans and aficionados.

“As we continue to re-engage with our Asian neighbours after the challenges of the global pandemic, it is wonderful to see such high-quality content on display here in our State gallery.

“I am greatly looking forward to seeing the works and am sure that many thousands of people will visit AGWA for this free exhibition, proudly supported by the McGowan Government.”

Learn more at (opens in a new window) The Art Gallery of Western Australia's website.

  • Museum Exhibitions — Yoshitomo Nara at The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Jan 24, 2023