Coinciding with Art Basel Hong Kong 2018, the exhibition includes new ceramic sculptures, paintings and works on paper by the acclaimed Japanese artist.

With the use of clay, Yoshitomo Nara explores form and materiality, creating a dialogue between the two. Art Radar has a look at the inaugural exhibition and speaks with Leng Lin, Pace Gallery Partner and President of Pace Hong Kong, Beijing and Seoul, about the importance of being present in Asia.

Studio view of painting in progress, 2018. Photograph by Yoshitomo Nara. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Studio view of painting in progress, 2018. Photograph by Yoshitomo Nara. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

At its 10th anniversary in Asia, Pace launches the second space in Hong Kong at H Queen’s, a new art and lifestyle building in Hong Kong. Designed by Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, Pace Gallery’s new space spans 4,800 square feet across a full floor of the building. Coinciding with Art Basel Hong Kong 2018, the inaugural exhibition “Yoshitomo Nara: Ceramic Works and…” is on view from 27 March to 12 May 2018.

The exhibition includes 12 new ceramic sculptures made in Shigaraki, Japan, a region which is known for its long tradition of the medium. Yoshitomo Nara’s ceramic works express a wide range of human emotions, and his paintings feature a solitary figure, characteristic of his work. Lively pencil lines on his work on paper capture the effect created by the use of light and shade, as well as the mischievous expressions of the protagonist. Several of Nara’s new sculptures will be loaned to the upcoming Taiwan Ceramics Biennale, which runs from 7 September 2018 to 3 March 2019.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'Miss Tannenbaum', 2018 ceramic, 69.9 x 44.9 x 47.9 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Miss Tannenbaum’, 2018 ceramic, 69.9 x 44.9 x 47.9 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959, Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan) graduated from Aichi University of the Arts with a Master’s degree in 1987. Having completed further studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and resided in Cologne until 2000, he returned to Japan. Nara has exhibited internationally since the mid-1990s. He is known for paintings with expressive colours and bold images, sculptures which linktogether volumetric considerations with aesthetic qualities of the clay, and vivid drawings. Hisphotographic works also feature his life and travels.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'Peace on the Cheek', 2018, pencil on paper, 64.9 x 50 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Peace on the Cheek’, 2018, pencil on paper, 64.9 x 50 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

In a passage in the press release (PDF download), titled “Ceramic Sculptures and Drawing and Painting”, Nara explains his choice of artistic medium:

Drawings have always sustained me as an artist whenever my painting process wasn’t going well, but since I first took the medium of clay in my hands about 10 years ago, it’s become something that lies right between painting and drawing for me. In particular, the positive surrender to taking a clay work that I believe is creatively complete, and seeing it replaced by the fired ceramic result which may be better or worse than my own capabilities, feels good. I think it’s because it differs from other sculptural media that can be controlled, but my encounter with creating ceramics has been one of the most significant of my artistic life.

Studio view of sculpture in progress, 2018, ceramic. Photograph by Yoshitomo Nara. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Studio view of sculpture in progress, 2018, ceramic. Photograph by Yoshitomo Nara. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

The artist continues:

Recently I realized that clay is freer than pencil. Before a toddler first grasps a pencil and draws, comes the act of holding. Change comes about from holding, squeezing, releasing, holding again. This is a more primal instinct to create with the hands directly, rather than using a tool like a pencil or a brush. This exhibition shows ceramic sculptures created by my hands in the space between freedom and restriction, and the drawings that supported those ideas. That, plus the newest paintings created through my process of worries and struggles. I believe that my artistic consciousness (or rather, my personal consciousness), which has long been sustained by drawing whenever painting did not come easily, has grown a little from gaining the output of ceramics.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'Cube', 2018, ceramic, 31.8 x 35.7 x 35.7 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Cube’, 2018, ceramic, 31.8 x 35.7 x 35.7 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Rendering of PACE Hong Kong, H Queen's (interior). Imagecourtesy Bonetti Kozerski Architecture and Pace Gallery.

Rendering of PACE Hong Kong, H Queen’s (interior). Imagecourtesy Bonetti Kozerski Architecture and Pace Gallery.

The launch of the new gallery consolidates Pace Gallery’s presence in Asia. Marc Glimcher, Pace Gallery President & CEO, notes:

We’re very excited to open our new gallery in H Queen’s – exhibiting in the company of Pearl, David, Iwan and Manuela – this center will be a phenomenal addition to Hong Kong’s growing arts ecosystem. The arts renaissance that has been underway in Asia for the last 30 years or so has triggered a global shift and brought new energy to artists, collectors, and institutions across the art world. It has been a privilege to play a role in that evolution for the last decade, particularly to work with many of the artists who have shaped that renaissance, and our engagement with the Asian market continues to inform the way we see and work around the world. The opening of the new gallery in Hong Kong represents an important continuation of this commitment to the region, but certainly not the culmination.

Art Radar finds out more about this strategic move, speaking to Leng Lin, Pace Gallery Partner and President of Pace Hong Kong, Beijing and Seoul, about his views on the Asian art market, as well as the new space at H Queen’s, Hong Kong.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'Head 1', 2018, ceramic, 29.1 cm x 27 cm x 21.4 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Head 1’, 2018, ceramic, 29.1 cm x 27 cm x 21.4 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'Asa', 2018, ceramic, 37 x 32.1 x 32.4 cm. © Yoshitoo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Asa’, 2018, ceramic, 37 x 32.1 x 32.4 cm. © Yoshitoo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

As 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of Pace in Asia, what are some major changes in the art scene in Asia you have observed?

It has changed greatly. Firstly, the Asian market has taken a further step towards an international stage that is much more inclusive than its regional cultural environment. It is constantly opening up and developing. Secondly, the structure of the local art market is also undergoing profound changes. A large number of private art museums is on the rise. From Shanghai, Beijing to Guangzhou, Nanjing and Kunming, many private art museums are emerging. Private collections are evolving to the public level rapidly.

In the past ten years, young collectors have been emerging. Nowadays, the development of contemporary art in China is more and more organically integrated with the development of the entire world.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'An Anxious Feeling', 2018 pencil on paper, 64.9 x 50 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘An Anxious Feeling’, 2018 pencil on paper, 64.9 x 50 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, Sleepy, 'Head', 2018, ceramic, 41 x 43 x 40.5 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Sleepy Head’, 2018, ceramic, 41 x 43 x 40.5 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Why is it crucial to open the second space in Hong Kong?

The second space in Hong Kong is a development under Hong Kong’s specific market conditions, with various aspects taken into account, including the gradual maturing of the Hong Kong market conditions. It is also crucial for the development of Hong Kong art market that more and more world-class galleries are stationed here. This development should be credited to the foundation laid by the constant auctions and art fairs taking place recently in Hong Kong, and the unceasing hard work done by all of us in the past few years. These factors are closely linked. At present, Hong Kong has indeed reached a new level in terms of the art market and will speed up from now on.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'Ahunrupar', 2018, ceramic, 32.2 x 44.3 x 38.7 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Ahunrupar’, 2018, ceramic, 32.2 x 44.3 x 38.7 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, 'Anymore for Anymore', 2018, ceramic, 125.6 x 121.1 x 118.4 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Anymore for Anymore’, 2018, ceramic, 125.6 x 121.1 x 118.4 cm. © Yoshitomo Nara. Image courtesy Pace Gallery.

Why is the location at H Queen’s ideal? How do the features of the new gallery space influence the planning of the upcoming show(s)?

H Queen’s was designed specifically for galleries at the time. It not only meets the galleries’ demand for space, being able to transport large-scale works, but also sets its location in Central. Therefore, I felt that all the conditions can meet the needs of the current Hong Kong market. The new space will be more suitable for presenting works in richer forms.

Valencia Tong

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“Yoshitomo Nara: Ceramic Works and…” is on view from 27 March to 12 May 2018 at Pace Gallery, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong.

Related Topics: Japanese artists, sculpture, drawing, paper, gallery shows, events in Hong Kong

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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