Pioneering Japanese contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara has taken centre stage at London’s Pace Gallery with a landmark solo exhibition that encompasses the breadth of his many talents.
The show, which is the first to make use of the full expanse of the gallery, is centred around an installation that imitates an exhibition space.
Running until 15 January 2022, the Pinacoteca exhibition features a diverse range of his recent paintings, sculptures, and works on cardboard throughout Pace’s three galleries. Among this work are examples of his innocent, genderless figures with large heads and oval eyes that have become something of his stylistic calling card.
Taking its name from the Ancient Greco Roman term for a public art salon, Pinacoteca is a prime example of how Nara expertly balances the aesthetics of material with meditations on the human experience. Themes such as war, music, loneliness and nature can be found running through his art. However, on this occasion, viewers are invited to process them uniquely.
That’s because at the heart of Pinacoteca is a specially crafted multi-room structure that imitates an exhibition space. It’s the latest in a series of installations dating back to 1985, which explore the relationship between space and artwork. This one is meticulously designed to create an emotional attachment between the work and the environment.
Reworked from an earlier project titled London Mayfair House, which Nara built from abandoned materials found in a London suburb in 2006, this installation features newly created paintings on wood and canvas, drawings, used envelopes, and cardboard boxes hung by the artist himself. Sightless on the outside, the structure has been specially designed to deftly switch the viewer’s position from participant to onlooker as they enter and exit the space.
Dr Yeewan Koon, Associate Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Hong Kong, says of these spaces: “In these fantastical, childlike rooms, Nara disrupt[s] the institutional spaces of museums and galleries by challenging the traditional classifications of what is and is not considered art. … With each exhibition, a viewer’s experience as a voyeur, consumer, or passerby becomes a part of the dislocating effect of this concentrated layering of things.”
If this fascinating exhibition has stoked your interest in all things Yoshitomo Nara, you’re in luck. Pinacoteca coincides with the artist’s major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has been extended through January 2022 and follows the exhibition, I Forgot Their Names and Often Can’t Remember Their Faces But Remember Their
Voices Well at Dallas Contemporary, Texas.