Born on February 1, 1962, in Tokyo, Takashi Murakami is a Japanese artist and an entrepreneur. He pursued Japanese Painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine arts and Music and subsequently obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1986 and a Ph.D. in 1993. After completing his studies, he exhibited his work in both solo and group exhibitions. He made his European debut in “Transculture”, held at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995. In the subsequent year, his works were featured at the Second Asia- Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia. 

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Takashi Murakami_©www.grailed.com

Having earned a BA, MFA, and Ph.D., Takashi Murakami also studied Nihonga, a term that literally translates to “Japanese painting” that appeared in the Meiji Period (1868-1912), a time of globalization for Japan. Trained in Japanese Art, he identified similitudes between the flat composition of Japanese painting and the plain aesthetics of Anime (Japanese Animation) and Manga (Japanese Comics). His work focussed on two-dimensional forms and bold, distinct imagery that gave birth to an artistic movement called Superflat, his signature style that not just acknowledged but glorified the communication between art and commercial worlds.

Art Style

Drawing from Sci-fi, Anime, traditional Japanese painting, and the global art market, Takashi Murakami creates paintings, sculptures, and even films. Characterized by recurring motifs and symbols like smiling flowers, bears, and Mr.DOB (his most famous character), his vast portfolio represents the intersection of history, fine art, and pop culture. He started a studio/ workshop named Hiropon factory in 1996, which in the following years developed into an art production and artist management company – Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd. 

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Murakami’s work focussed on two-dimensional forms and bold, distinct imagery that gave birth to an artistic movement called Superflat, his signature style_ ©mymodernmet.com

Takashi Murakami’s characters may seem happy and bright at the first glance. But he uses them to make bigger statements on topics like history, violence, and technology. In 2000, Murakami curated Superflat, an exhibition that featured the various works of artists whose mediums and techniques blended different aspects of Japanese visual culture from ukiyo-e (woodblock prints of the Edo period) to anime and kawaii (a particular cuteness in cartoons, products, etc). 

Takashi Murakami’s work also touches upon mass-produced items like toys, keychains, and t-shirts. He began a multi-year collaboration with Marc Jacob in the year 2002 for the redesign of the Louis Vuitton monogram. In fact, he made a radical act by directly incorporating the Louis Vuitton monograms and patterns into his paintings and sculptures. In May 2003, Murakami earned celebrity status when his lifesize fiberglass sculpture, Miss Ko2, was auctioned for $567,500 in the city of New York. 

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Smiling flowers_©mymodernmet.com

Most importantly, a look into Takashi Murakami’s career and portfolio remains incomplete without a moment of dedication to his smiling flowers, which first debuted in 1995. Displayed in exhibitions across the world and products through the years, their most significant appearance might be their cameo in the 2002 redesign of the Louis Vuitton monogram. The Japanese artist has also indicated that he would like his Smiling Flowers design to feature in the Louis Vuitton x Supreme Collab.

The shift in his approach

Murakami’s work illustrated a switch from clean plasticized depictions of smiling flowers and mischievous characters to anarchic compositions of skulls and devilish elements. He has often attributed this shift to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. Another reason for this could have also been the result of a yearslong dialogue that he fostered with Nobuo Tsuji, a Japanese art historian, whose work on artists of the Edo period (or the Tokugawa period – 1603–1867) had had an influence on Murakami at the beginning of his art career. 

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Murakami’s work_©mymodernmet.com

In this period, Takashi Murakami’s subjects bring to mind art history, Japanese religion, and folklore. His most famous pieces of artwork include the multipanelled painting 100 Arhats (2013)- an Arhat, in Buddhism, refers to the one who has attained the state of enlightenment- and the twin sculptures of demons, Embodiment of “A” and Embodiment of “Um” (both 2014). He also released his first feature film, Mememe no kurage (Jellyfish Eyes), in Japan in 2013. 

Exhibitions and Collaborations

Murakami’s work was often exhibited internationally, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, both in 2017. The Japanese artist continued to collaborate with high-profile names like the fashion designer Virgil Abloh. He also worked together with the musician, Kanye West, whose album Graduation (2007) features a cover illustration by Takashi Murakami. 

Artist Takashi Murakami and designer Virgil Abloh_ ©www.ordre.com

Murakami’s Uniqueness

What we observe in Takashi Murakami’s portfolio is a distinctive blend of various time periods, styles, and subject matter. In addition to creating extraordinary paintings and sculptures, Murakami has hosted various art fairs for upcoming artists, curated exhibitions, and has also made films presenting his own characters and elements. His perspective of art extends beyond the boundaries between studio, art fair, gallery, and media as well. By bringing together the various fields of science, history, and fantasy, he stands testimony to the fact that none of these can be studied in isolation.

References:

  1. Gagosian. (2018). Takashi Murakami | Gagosian. [online] Available at: https://gagosian.com/artists/takashi-murakami/.
  1. Art & Object. (n.d.). The Life & Art of Takashi Murakami. [online] Available at: https://www.artandobject.com/news/life-art-takashi-murakami [Accessed 14 May 2022].
  1. Naka, K. (2019). Takashi Murakami | Japanese artist and entrepreneur. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Murakami-Takashi.
  2. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (2018). Tokugawa period | Definition & Facts. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/event/Tokugawa-period.
  3. Admin (2017). Murakami Hints at Another Louis Vuitton x Supreme Collab. [online] Straatosphere. Available at: https://straatosphere.com/takashi-murakami-supreme-louis-vuitton-collab/ [Accessed 14 May 2022].
Author

Meera Venkatesh, an architectural writer, finds it intriguing to recreate the same experience of space through words. Her love for architectural history has led her to pursue a Master's in History. Someone utters "Indian Heritage"; you may find Meera there! Now, what's her new interest? Writing for RTF!

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