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.
Another month, another art fair. With over 200 fairs held every year, I feel like a hamster stuck on an ever-spinning wheel. I just can’t seem to hop off, and after several years of this it has all become a bit of a blur. There isn’t a city to be visited that hasn’t already created its own art fair or biennale; there’s...
Takashi Murakami in Wonderland was Murakami's first solo show in mainland China and Perrotin's second exhibition in its posh 1,200-square-meter Shanghai space. According to Perrotin's press release, it was also the artist's largest gallery show in Asia to date, featuring recent and new works specially created for the occasion.At the gallery's...
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.
In 1980, when the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami was 17 years old, he saw the anime movie Galaxy Express 999, about a boy finding his way as an astral traveler. 'It was like my spirit was flown away into outer space,' he remembered. 'This was around the time that Japan went into a bubble economy—there was a festive mood, but as an...
It seems that Vancouver has been rather superflattened by the arrival of Takashi Murakami – or at the very least supercharged. The Japanese international art world star arrived in town to open his retrospective exhibition The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, on the eve of his 56th birthday, to a palpable civic buzz. He was even presented with a special...
Akiko Miki, International Artistic Director of the Benesse Art Site in Naoshima, Japan, presents one of the most unconventional collector's stories in Japan, that of the artist Takashi Murakami, as well as the exhibition she curated in 2016 at the Yokohama Museum of Art on Murakami's collection.