'A Picture of War is Not War', we read in Hito Steyerl's iconic film November (2004), an essayistic Super 8 film tackling the definition of terrorism constructed around the figure of the artist's best friend Andrea Wolf, who was killed as a terrorist in 1998 in Eastern Anatolia after she joined the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). Mixing documentary...
There has been a flurry of triennial and biennial art activity in Japan this year. The Aichi Triennale opened in Nagoya this August, sparking a national debate about the shutting down of a display of formerly censored works—the result of public backlash against a burnt image of Emperor Hirohito and a statue commemorating the women forced into...
Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...
Etsuko Nakajima. Courtesy Perrotin.
In November 2018, Perrotin debuted its fourth gallery in Asia in the heart of Shanghai. The space was inaugurated with the exhibition Takashi Murakami in Wonderland, on view through January 5.
Just after the opening, Whitewall caught up with the woman behind the new location, Etsuko Nakajima.
Best known for his distinctive anime-inspired characters and worlds of explosive neon colours, Takashi Murakami garnered international attention in the late 1990s with his cartoon-like paintings and sculptures.
Murakami's aesthetics largely derive from his concern with the emergence of kawaii (cute) visual culture in post-war Japan. After Japan's surrender to the Allies in 1945, Japanese artists turned to creating cartoon fantasies and harmless characters such as Hello Kitty and Doraemon as a way of reinventing their culture. When these icons began to gain popularity inside and outside Japan, the Japanese government also adopted them—issuing Hello Kitty stamps, for example—to reinvent the country as cool, youthful and approachable.
Murakami uses his kawaii characters to critique Japanese society. In the painting Super Nova (1999), for example, cartoon mushrooms are infested with eyeballs on their bodies. By appropriating anime aesthetics to depict the effects of nuclear explosion on life, Murakami subverted the playfulness and fantasy expected of anime in an attempt to force the viewer to confront reality.
At the same time, Murakami regards kawaii as a means for Japan to establish a cultural cache overseas and has successfully introduced his characters into international popular culture. Between 2002 and 2015, he famously collaborated with Louis Vuitton to redesign the brand's iconic logo print in his signature neon colour palette, and to incorporate his smiling flowers and big-eared characters into its luxury bags. His creations have also appeared in the music industry, notably his artwork for Kanye West albums (Graduation , Kids See Ghosts ) and collaborations with Pharrell Williams to create a sculpture at Art Basel Miami Beach (2009) and a music video (Last Night, Good Night ).
In addition to his anime-inspired characters, Murakami's practice is informed by contemporary events and religious iconography. His solo exhibition In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow at Gagosian New York in 2014 was conceived as a reaction to the Great Tōhoku Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. For the works in the exhibition, Murakami borrowed from Buddhist, Daoist and Japanese Shinto imageries—such as the enlightened Buddhist monks in the painting Isle of the Dead (2014)—and reinterpreted them as his signature psychedelic, anime-style characters, creating an environment that cultivated spirituality and encouraged healing in the aftermath of the catastrophe.
By the early 2000s, Murakami's style had captivated the imagination of younger artists and spurred an art movement in Japan that came to be known as 'Superflat'. Inspired by the kawaii aesthetics, Superflat artists seek to conflate the dichotomies of high and low art while combining the flatness of traditional Japanese painting with references to both Eastern and Western popular cultures.
Since his introduction to the international art world in the 1990s, Murakami has ventured beyond the galleries to work as a curator and entrepreneur. In 2001, he organised a group show titled Superflat at MOCA Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood. Other notable exhibitions curated by Murakami include Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture at Japan Society Gallery, New York (2005); Kazunori Hamana, Yuji Ueda, and Otani Workshop at Blum & Poe, New York (2016); and Juxtapoz x Superflat at Vancouver Art Gallery (2016). Murakami has also been the head of his company, Kaikai Kiki, since 2001. The company represents the forerunners of the Superflat movement, such as Chiho Aoshima, Chinatsu Ban and Aya Takano, and supports aspiring Japanese artists.
Murakami completed his studies at Tokyo University of the Arts and holds a PhD in nihonga. He has exhibited extensively around the world, including Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Paris, Frankfurt and Qatar. In 2010, his sculptures and paintings were displayed in 15 rooms of the Palace of Versailles as part of his first major retrospective in France. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago also arranged a survey of his works in 2017, many of which had never been shown in North America. An equally recognised artist in his homeland, Murakami was awarded the 66th Art Encouragement Prize by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2016.
LONDON — It's a hot mid-afternoon in the West End's posh Mayfair district, and Damien Hirst is standing outside the glass double-doors of the White Cube gallery, looking every inch the devil-may-care prankster out of some early Shakespearean comedy.
Sculptors have always had it tough. Any unique instance of exploratory form in three-dimensions ultimately can't compete with the diverse world of objects and the inexorable gravity that pressurizes it all into our consciousness. Historical ways to outwit this "outside" pressure have ranged from twisting an animated mimesis from the human...
A white hand, black with soot, clamps open and shut. It lets pieces of lead fall through its gnawing fingers. Sometimes it catches the pieces, sometimes not. It always allows the lead to leave below the frame. The body is framed as a fragment, the hand floats. It would seem there is no end result to all this hand-grasping: as soon as a lead is...
The painter John Currin's studio is on the top floor of a loftlike building in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, just a few blocks from the Gramercy Park town house he shares with his wife, artist Rachel Feinstein, and their two sons and daughter. The studio is a cavernous space that could easily house a three-bedroom apartment, but...
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