Yoshitomo Nara’s House Installation and Two Paintings Collectively Sold for US$15.5m in Hong Kong to Become the Artist’s Second Highest Auction Record

Earlier tonight saw Poly Auction’s Spring Modern & Contemporary Art Sale in Hong Kong. Among the works by young emerging artists and more established names, it was the star lot that comprised Japanese sensation Yoshitomo Nara’s house installation, and two paintings that stood out, sold collectively for HK$120m (US$15.5m) after premium. The lot is also the artist's second highest auction record, trailing behind his US$25m Knife Behind Back.

Lot 142 | Yoshitomo Nara (b.1959), Berlin Barack, Room 1
Executed in 2007
Mixed media installation

  • Galerie Zink, Berlin, Germany
  • Christie’s Hong Kong, May 26, 2012, lot 2041
  • Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

Dimensions: 263 x 317 x 279 cm

  • Yoshitomo Nara, Hothouse Doll, Painted in 2007, acrylic on canvas, 146 × 130.5 cm; and
  • Yoshitomo Nara, Three Sisters (Berlin Version), Executed in 2007, acrylic on wood panel, 102.5 × 183 cm

Estimate on request

Hammer price: HK$100,000,000

Price realized: HK$120,000,000


Yoshitomo Nara, Hothouse Doll, 2007

Yoshitomo Nara, Three Sisters (Berlin Version), 2007


Auctioneer Jenny Lok opened the show-stealing lot at HK$38m and the bids relayed by the specialist in the Hong Kong saleroom pushed the price steadily up to HK$75m in around 10 bids. By then, the bidding battle was among the phone bidders represented by Jamie Yu (Head of Modern and Contemporary Art Department), Alex Chang (Managing Director), and Joseph Yang (Specialist) - all gathered in the Hong Kong saleroom.

Towards the second half of the proceeding, the bidding increment was at one point lowered to HK$500,000 to keep the saleroom alive until the bidding was coming to an end. It was Chang, who offered the victorious bid of HK$100m for his client with the paddle number 1420, who is the new owner of the installation and two paintings.


Auctioneer Jenny Lok, who fielded bids from Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing and onlilne for the first half of the sale

Alex Chang (Managing Director) won the coveted lot for his client with the paddle number 1420


Since 1984, house has been a recurring symbol in Nara’s work. Berlin Barack, Room 1 is a phenomenal house installation that converges such elements as children, music, little girls, and house. From Nara’s full involvement in the creative process, to the unique space and ambience the installation creates for the two paintings that are housed inside, the present lot is never-before-seen in the contemporary art scene.

Embedded in the installation are Hothouse Doll and Three Sisters (Berlin Version), the two acrylic paintings that showcase the artist’s 30 years of creative focus.


The unique space of the huge installation is beyond being specifically tailored by the artist for his paintings. It builds an elaborated interaction between their creation, historical background and their audience. 

Set in an arena that transcends geographical barriers and time constraints, Nara invites viewers into the house through the installation’s lines of motion. There, his paintings no longer only reflect a single perspective, rather, a much broader vision creative outlook that resonates with our senses.

Yoshitomo Nara (b.1959) in front of his work Miss Moonlight, currently on view in a Taipei exhibition


Nara is best known for his paintings of children that appear adorable but at the same time, a little sinister. His works are among some of the most sought-after ones at auction and it looks like this season is no exception. His Frog Girl, measuring 120 by 111 cm, achieved HK$96.3m (US$12.4m) just two days ago at a Sotheby's Hong Kong evening sale, which indicates the market's burgeoning demand for the artist's works.

Lot 161 | Zao Wou-ki 12.04.60 
Painted in 1960
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 100 x 81 cm

  • Private Collection, Asia
  • Christie's Hong Kong, November 29, 2009, lot 1002
  • Christie's Hong Kong, May 30, 2015, lot 29
  • Private Collection, Asia
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: HK$45,000,000 - 65,000,000
Hammer price: HK$50,000,000
Price realized: HK$60,000,000


The second place of the sale was claimed by Chinese-French abstract master Zao Wou-ki, one of the artists who went under the tutelage of the “Father of Chinese modernism” Lin Fengmian.

The bidding began at HK$38m and the initial absentee bids, up to HK$48m, all came from the auctioneer. Yet in the end, it was June Hsu (Senior Specialist), who offered the within-estimate HK$50m bid for her client, when the gavel was down.


June Hsu (Senior Specialist) won the present lot for her client, paddle number 1073


Zao left his hometown and relocated to Paris in 1948, where he was deeply inspired by Western abstraction. During the 1960s, also known as his “Hurricane Period,” his works grew increasingly abstract and he found it more fitting to stop naming his works to avoid ascribing overt visual associations. Instead, he decided to title them with the date of their completion and the present work, 12.04.60 was one of them. 

Closer look at 12.04.60 


The immense grandeur radiating from the present work is the testament to Zao’s bolder and more unrestrained artistic expression, compared to his earlier works. A noticeable central axis running across the canvas converges the spontaneous brush strokes as well as the burst of colors.

Lot 143 | Li Chen (b.1963), Avalokitesvara
Executed in 1999
Bronze sculpture edition: 3/6
Dimensions: 110 × 207 × 250 cm

  • Private Collection, Asia

Estimate: HK$6,000,000 - 9,000,000
Hammer price: HK$6,000,000
Price realized: HK$7,200,000


Originating from Buddhisim, the Avalokitesvara - or the bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, is one of the recurring themes explored by Taiwanese artist Li Chen in his oeuvre. His unique take on the subject matter stems from his profound love for traditional Chinese culture and in-depth study of Taoist Buddhism. 

Striving to break away from the framework of traditional sculptures, Li’s creations are often met with smooth, clean lines from Western aesthetics. 

An alternative edition of the present sculpture exhibited at a Taiwan exhibition, 2011


The present bronze sculpture conveys a sense of serenity. Avalokitesvara’s left hand, holding a bottle, signifies the protection of all beings from disasters and growth-nurturing. His right hand, meanwhile, is in the mudra of teaching, which symbolizes the untying of struggles in the hearts of human beings. His body slightly tilted downwards to look down on the viewers to provide a sense of spiritual healing and comforting.

Auction Summary

Auction house: Poly Auction Hong Kong

Sale: Modern and Contemporary Art

Date: April 21, 2021

Lots offered: 96

Sold: 86

Unsold: 10

Sell-through rate: 89.6%

Sale total: HK$266,250,000 (US$34,303,650)