The Nara Phenomenon

Miwako Tezuka, co-curator of Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool, discusses a turning point in the artist's reception in his native Japan. (1 min., 41 sec.)

NEW YORK, September 14, 2010 - At the members' opening for Asia Society Museum's Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool, co-curator Miwako Tezuka spoke on the "Nara phenomenon," the special connection that Yoshitomo Nara has formed with his many young fans in Japan, across Asia, and worldwide. Tezuka was introduced by Melissa Chiu, Asia Society Museum Director and co-curator of Nobody's Fool.

Nara and his artwork, Tezuka explained, have inspired uncommon devotion. In Japan and Korea, the hikikomori, troubled youths who refuse to face the outside world, have emerged from their rooms to visit Nara's exhibitions. In 2006, thousands of people came together in Nara's hometown to build the exhibition "A to Z," which included dozens of house-like structures and additional artworks. Nara, the design team with which he collaborates, YNG, and the numerous volunteers, Tezuka stated, "had not just built houses, they had created a temporary community, a village."

Tezuka spoke of Nara's lifelong involvement with music, one key to his connection with young fans. Nara's album art and the song lyrics that he includes in his drawings, paintings, and ceramics are obvious evidence of his passion for music. On a deeper level, Tezuka compared Nara's artistic practice to that of a musician. The girls, animals, and houses that appear repeatedly in Nara's work are like the amateur "three chords" sound of his all-time favorite punk band, the Ramones.   

Mentioning Nara's blog, his Facebook page, and his activity on Twitter, Tezuka emphasized that Nara's massive fan base would not exist without the world-wide web. Why was Nara, formerly rather reclusive, opening himself up in new ways? Tezuka explained that Nara appreciated the do-it-yourself quality of the new social media, in contrast to corporate-controlled channels. "If Nara were going to emerge from the seclusion of his studio and reach out to his fans, he was going to do it in his own way." The same might be said of the young people he so inspires.

Reported by Lara Netting