Yoshitomo Nara began painting rebellious girls in the 1990s, drawing inspiration from Japanese manga cartoons, Disney films, and punk rock music to imbue his characters with a mixture of innocence and defiance. The girls in Nara’s portraits can often be found playing with weapons, smoking cigarettes, or dreaming in bed—all with a signature cuteness (or kawaii) that reflects the artist’s Japanese heritage. For Nara, his signature girls have become more than just his muse. “They are all self-portraits in a way,” he says. “But the emotions that I feel can, of course, be universal.” Nara’s portraits of girls are among his most popular motifs on the market. His portrait of a twinkling girl The Little Star Dweller (2006) set the artist’s auction record, fetching over $3.4 million including fees at Christie’s in 2015.
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