Skip to main content
Hamburger Menu Close



This adorably sinister Nara painting just sold for S$34 million, a world record

Ten minutes was all it took for the monumental artwork, touted as the biggest Nara piece to ever appear at auction, to be sold.

It was an intense battle between six collectors at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Hong Kong on Sunday, Oct 6. But the fierce fighting was over in just 10 minutes. That was when the hammer came down on Yoshitomo Nara’s Knife Behind Back, the monumental acrylic on canvas selling for a record-busting US$24,941,455 (S$34,427,153).

It is not known who the buyer of the 234 x 208 cm work – the largest canvas by the artist ever to appear at auction – is. The hammer price, however, is the highest achieved for a Nara work at auction.

READ> Art and watch collectors: Here’s how blockchain can stamp out fakes

Knife Behind Back was created in 2000. Despite the title, the picture’s little heroine does not appear to be brandishing a knife – making the painting all the more sinister in its hidden intent. That the little girl towers over viewers at larger-than-life dimensions makes it extra menacing.

“I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives,” said Nara in a statement.

According to Sotheby’s, the knife’s deliberate concealment “underscores the unexpected insurgent power of children and the associated radical potentiality of the insignificant…”. The artwork captures the essence of Nara’s “sullen, disgruntled, yet endearing and captivating youth” – which we think is a sure sign of the times, given the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong.

READ> How art galleries and museums are tackling climate change and social justice

Source: CNA/ds