Takashi Murakami (村上 隆, Murakami Takashi, born February 1, 1962) is a Japanese contemporary artist. He works in fine arts media (such as painting and sculpture) as well as commercial media (such as fashion, merchandise, and animation) and is known for blurring the line between high and low arts. He coined the term "superflat", which describes both the aesthetic characteristics of the Japanese artistic tradition and the nature of post-war Japanese culture and society, and is also used for Murakami's artistic style and other Japanese artists he has influenced.
Murakami at the Palace of Versailles 2010
|Education||Tokyo University of the Arts|
|Known for||Contemporary art|
Life and careerEdit
Academic background and early careerEdit
Murakami was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. From early on, he was a fan of anime and manga (Japanese comics), and hoped to work in the animation industry. He attended Tokyo University of the Arts to acquire the drafting skills necessary to become an animator, but eventually majored in Nihonga, the 'traditional' style of Japanese painting that incorporates traditional Japanese artistic conventions, techniques and subjects. Though he would go on to earn a Ph.D. in Nihonga, he gradually became disillusioned with its insular, highly political world and started to explore more contemporary artistic styles, media, and strategies.
Murakami was dissatisfied with the state of contemporary art in Japan, believing it to be "a deep appropriation of Western trends." Thus, much of his early work was done in the spirit of social criticism and satire. On an article naming and explaining all of Murakami's pieces lies the infamous 'My Lonesome Cowboy' 1998. The sculpture is that of a naked anime character with blond spiky hair with a spiral trail of semen circling him. It's stated that this sculpture is a counterpart to a piece that was made four years later 'Hiropon'. This piece is Murakami's most expensive piece to date selling for $13,500,000 at Sothbye's New York auction in 2008. Efforts from this period include performance art (Osaka Mixer Project, 1992), parodies of the "message" art popular in Japan in the early '90s, (Dobozite Dobozite Oshamanbe, 1993), and conceptual works (e.g. Randoseru Project, 1991). He also began developing his own pop icon, "Mr. DOB," which would later develop into a form of self-portraiture, the first of several endlessly morphing and recurring motifs seen throughout his work. Though he garnered attention, many of his early pieces were not initially well received in Japan.
In 1994, Murakami received a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council and participated in the PS1 International Studio Program in New York City for a year. During his stay, he was exposed to and highly inspired by Western contemporary artists such as Anselm Kiefer and especially the simulationism of artists such as Jeff Koons. He established a small studio, which, together with the Hiropon Factory in Japan, became the precursor to his company Kaikai Kiki. After returning to Japan, he would develop the core concepts behind his artistic practice and begin exhibiting regularly at major galleries and institutions across Europe and America.
Murakami has expressed since early on a frustration with the lack of a reliable and sustainable art market in post-war Japan. Largely for this reason, he formulated a strategy wherein he would first establish himself in the Western art world and then import himself back to Japan, building a new type of art market in the process. In order to create something rooted in his own Japanese culture and history but still fresh and valid internationally, he began searching for something that could be considered 'uniquely Japanese.' After concluding that elements of 'high' art were confounding at best, he began to focus on Japan's 'low' culture, especially anime and manga, and the larger subculture of otaku. His artistic style and motifs (cute/disturbing anime-esque characters rendered in bright colors, flat and highly glossy surfaces, life-size sculptures of anime figurines) derived from this strategy. This is demonstrated in his whimsical Cosmos Ball from 2000, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art.
In 2000, Murakami published his "Superflat" theory in the catalogue for a group exhibition of the same name that he curated for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The theory posits that there is a legacy of flat, 2-dimensional imagery from Japanese art history in manga and anime. This style differentiates itself from the western approach in its emphasis on surface and use of flat planes of color. Superflat also served as a commentary on post-war Japanese society in which, Murakami argues, differences in social class and popular taste have 'flattened,' producing a culture with little distinction between 'high' and 'low'. The theory provided the context for his work and he elaborated on it with the exhibitions "Coloriage" (2002, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris) and "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture" (2005, Japan Society, New York). These helped introduce Japan's lesser-known creative culture overseas and such curatorial projects would become an integral part of Murakami's multifaceted artistic practice. In the past decade, Murakami's curatorship expanded to include Kazunori Hamana, Yuji Ueda, and Otani Workshop at Blum & Poe, New York (2016) and Juxtapox x Superflat at Vancouver Art Gallery (2016).
In accordance with the Superflat concept, Murakami's practice involves repackaging elements usually considered "low" or subcultural and presenting them in the "high-art" market. He then further flattens the playing field by repackaging his "high-art" works as merchandise, such as plush toys and T-shirts, making them available at more affordable prices.
In 1996, Murakami launched the Hiropon Factory, his production workshop, in order to work on a larger scale and in a more diverse array of media. His model inherits the atelier system which has long existed in Japanese painting, printmaking and sculpture and is common to anime and manga enterprises, such as Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli. In 2001, Hiropon Factory was incorporated as Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd.
In 2002, at the invitation of designer Marc Jacobs, Murakami began his long-lasting collaboration with the fashion brand Louis Vuitton. He began by contributing artwork which was used in the design of a series of handbags. The series re-envisioned the company's monogram and was a huge commercial success. Though he had previously collaborated with fashion designers such as Issey Miyake Men by Naoki Takizawa, his work with Louis Vuitton made him widely known for blurring the line between 'high art' and commercialism. It also elevated him to celebrity status in his home country of Japan.
In 2007, Murakami provided the cover artwork for rapper Kanye West's album Graduation and directed an animated music video for West's song "Good Morning". He also provided cover artwork for West's 2018 collaboration album Kids See Ghosts with Kid Cudi.
For Graduation and "Good Morning", Murakami would later 're-appropriate' these projects by incorporating their imagery into his paintings and sculptures, further blurring the boundaries between art and commercial branding and even questioning the existence of such a boundary.
Asked about straddling the line between art and commercial products, Murakami responded:
I don't think of it as straddling. I think of it as changing the line. What I've been talking about for years is how in Japan, that line is less defined. Both by the culture and by the post-War economic situation. Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of "high art." In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that's okay—I'm ready with my hard hat.
Murakami has also collaborated with a wide range of creators and industries in Japan, a prominent example being the image characters he created for the press relations campaign of the major urban real estate development Roppongi Hills.
In May 2014, with Pharrell and kz of livetune, Murakami created a music video for the remix of the Hatsune Miku song "Last Night, Good Night (Re:Dialed)". The team was assembled by the YouTube channel The Creators Project, headed by Vice and Intel. The same year, Murakami's anime-inspired illustrations from his first film Jellyfish Eyes, also adorned a T-shirt by Billionaire Boys Club, the brand co-founded by Pharrell and Nigo.
In 2018, Takashi Murakami collaborated with fashion designer, Virgil Abloh, on a series of artworks, bringing the fashion world to the art world but ultimately transcending both to create something more. Takashi and Virgil discuss their careers and their collaboration at length in their interview for Cultured Magazine's fall 2018 issue where they are featured on the cover.
In March 2019, Billie Eilish released the official music video for you should see me in a crown, directed and animated by Takashi Murakami. Murakami stated in a press release that the anime-style video, which was animated using motion capture technology, took eight months for him to create. The video opens with an animated version of Eilish, dressed in a neon-green shirt and shorts, eventually morphing into a spider-like monster that wreaks havoc on a miniature city. The video features the "Blohsh", Eilish's signature logo, as well as Murakami's flowers.
In March 2020, J Balvin released his album Colores featuring album cover designs and artwork by Takashi Murakami. The Murakami-designed artwork was carried over to merchandise to celebrate the release of his album.
In April 2020, Supreme released a Box Logo Tee featuring artwork from Murakami. All the proceeds went to HELP USA, in order to support youth and families facing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On November 11, 2003, ArtNews has described Murakami's work as being in great demand. Hiropon (1997), a life-sized satirical sculpture of an anime character with gigantic lactating breasts whose milk stream forms a jump rope, sold for $427,500 at Christie's auction house in May 2002. Miss ko2 (1996), a 6-foot-tall model of an anime-inspired blonde girl in a red and white maid outfit, was sold for $567,500 in 2003, and was put up for auction in 2010, where it sold for 22.9 million HKD. In May 2008, My Lonesome Cowboy (1998), an anime-inspired sculpture of a masturbating boy whose semen stream forms a lasso, sold for $15.2 million at Sotheby's.
From 2007 to 2009, Murakami's first retrospective ©Murakami traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, and lastly the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain. Sarah Thornton tracks the early stages of the exhibition's planning, including in-depth curatorial meetings between Murakami and prominent museum figures, in Seven Days in the Art World. The exhibition earned widespread attention for, among other things, including a fully functioning Louis Vuitton boutique as one of the exhibits.
In 2008, Murakami was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People", the only visual artist included.
In September 2010 Murakami became the third contemporary artist, and first Japanese, to exhibit at the Palace of Versailles in France, filling 15 rooms and the park with his sculptures, paintings, a decorative carpet, and lamps.
In February 2012, Murakami opened an exhibition in Doha, Qatar. Titled Murakami-Ego, this showed around 60 old works alongside new ones designed especially for the exhibition. Among the new ones, a 100-metre long wall painting depicting the suffering of the Japanese people after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In April 2013, Murakami's first feature film was released in theaters across Japan. Jellyfish Eyes (originally titled "Me me me no kurage") is a live-action movie featuring CGI characters designed by Murakami called Friend.
Murakami's art encompasses a wide range of media and is generally described as superflat. It has been noted for its use of color, incorporation of motifs from Japanese traditional and popular culture, flat/glossy surfaces, and content that could be described at once as "cute", "psychedelic", or "satirical". Among his best known recurring motifs are smiling flowers, iconic characters, mushrooms, skulls, Buddhist iconography, and the sexual complexes of otaku culture. One of Murakami's most famous pieces known as 'Hiropon' brings to light his love for otaku culture. The sculpture that was created in 2001 is said to show the "otaku culture and its strange, shocking sexuality in full force" and again like its counterpart 'The Lonesome Cowboy' semen rests floating around the female sculpture.
In addition to large paintings such as 727 (permanent collection Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Tan Tan Bo Puking – a.k.a. Gero Tan, he has also produced sculptures, balloons, 'all-over' wallpaper installations, animated works, prints, posters, and assorted merchandise.
Murakami has incorporated his operations as Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. in Japan (2001), Kaikai Kiki New York, LLC in New York (2001), and Kaikai Kiki LA, LLC in Los Angeles (2010). Kaikai Kiki executes Murakami's wide range of artistic endeavors and consists of both offices and production studios. In addition to handling the production and promotion of Murakami's artwork and projects, the company manages the careers of young artists, organizes international art projects, produces and promotes merchandise, and handles the organization and operation of the Geisai art fair.
Having earned success and recognition internationally, Murakami has devoted himself to nurturing and supporting the careers of a younger generation of Japanese artists. Likening the operation to that of a record label, he offers both logistic support and practical career advice. Through this endeavor, he also seeks to build an original and sustainable art market in Japan.
In 2008, Kaikai Kiki converted the basement space beneath its Tokyo office into an art gallery. Kaikai Kiki Gallery has held exhibitions not only for the artists under its management but also international names such as Mark Grotjahn and Friedrich Kunath. All exhibitions are curated by Murakami.
From 2002 until 2014, Murakami organized a unique direct-participatory art fair called Geisai. It was held once per year in Japan and once per year in a different city, such as Taipei, or Miami. Rather than give space to pre-screened galleries, the fair allowed artists to create their own booths and interact directly with potential buyers.
- Murakami, Takashi "Geijutsu Kigyoron" ISBN 978-4-344-01178-6
- Murakami, Takashi "Geijutsu Tosoron" ISBN 978-4-344-01912-6
- Murakami, Takashi "Summon Monsters? Open The Door? Heal? Or Die?" ISBN 978-4-939148-03-3
- Murakami, Takashi "Superflat" ISBN 978-4-944079-20-9
- Murakami, Takashi "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture" ISBN 978-0-300-10285-7
- Cruz, Amanda/Friis-Hansen, Dana/Matsui, Midori "Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning" ISBN 978-0-8109-6702-1
- Schimmel, Paul "©Murakami" ISBN 978-0-8478-3003-9
- Le Bon, Laurent "Murakami Versailles" ISBN 978-2-915173-72-7
- Exhibition L'Espoir: Takashi Murakami, Galerie Ginza Surugadai, Tokyo
- New Works, Café Tiens!, Tokyo
- Art Gallery at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Tokyo
- Galerie Aoi, Osaka, Japan
- One Night Exhibition, August 23 Röntgen Kunst Institut, Tokyo
- I Am Against Being For It Galerie Aries, Tokyo
- A Very Merry Unbirthday!, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan
- Gallery Nasubi, Tokyo
- A Romantic Evening, Gallery Cellar, Nagoya, Japan 1992
- Wild Wild, Röntgen Kunst Institut, Tokyo
- NICAF'92, Shirashi Contemporary Art Inc., Yokohama, Japan
- Fujisan, Gallery Koto, Okayama, Japan
- Which is tomorrow? - Fall in love -, SCAI The Bathhouse, Shiraishi Contemporary Art, Inc., Tokyo
- Azami Kikyo, Ominaeshi, Gallery Aoi, Osaka, Japan
- A Romantic Evening, Gallery Cellar, Nagoya, Japan
- Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris
- NIJI (Rainbow), Gallery Koto, Okayama, Japan
- Crasy Z, SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo
- Mr. Doomsday Balloon, Yngtingagatan 1, Stockholm, Suède
- 727, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo
- 727, Aoi Gallery Osaka, Japan
- Feature Inc., New York
- Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York
- Galerie Koto, Okayama, Japan
- Konnichiwa, Mr. DOB, Kirin Art Plaza, Osaka, Japan
- A Very Merry Unbirthday, To You, To Me!, Ginza Komatsu, Tokyo
- Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris
- Blum & Poe Gallery, Santa Monica, California
- Galerie Koto, Okayama, Japan
- The Other Side of a Flash of Light, HAP Art Space, Hiroshima, Japan
- Hiropon Project KoKo_Pity Sakurako Jet Airplane Nos. 1-6, Feature Inc., New York
- Back Beat : Super Flat, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo
- My Lonesome Cowboy, Blum & Poe Gallery, Santa Monica, California
- Moreover, DOB raises his hand, Sagacho bis, Tokyo
- DOB in the strange forest, Nagoya Parco Gallery, Japan
- Patron, Marunuma Art Park Gallery, Japan
- Second Mission PROJECT KO2, Hiropon Factory, Japan
- Dob's Adventures in Wonderland, Parco Gallery, Tokyo
- The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Bart College, New York
- Superflat, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
- Love & DOB, Gallery KOTO, Okayama, Japan
- 727 Blum & Poe Gallery, Santa Monica, California
- Second mission Project KO2, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York
- Kaikai Kiki: Superflat, Issey Miyake for Men, Tokyo
- Wink, Grand Central Station, New York
- Mushroom, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
- KaiKai KiKi, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris
- Summon monsters? open the door? heal? or die?, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo
- Takashi Murakami: Made in Japan, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
- Kawaii, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris; Serpentine Gallery, London
- Superflat Monogram, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris
- Superflat Monogram, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
- Double Helix Reversal, Rockefeller Center, New York
- Funny Cuts, Stuttgart Museum of Art, Stuttgart, Germany
- Takashi Murakami: Inochi, Blum & Poe Gallery, New York
- Opening of Gallery Extension, Galerie Perrotin, Paris
- Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Pop Culture, Japan Society, New York
- Outdoor Banner Installation, Public Art Fund, New York
- The Pressure Point of Painting, Galerie Perrotin, Paris
- ©Murakami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California
- Davy Jone's Tear, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, California
- ©Murakami, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany
- Prints, "My First Art Series", Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo
- I Love Prints and So I Make Them, ARKI Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
- I Love Prints and So I Make Them, Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo
- Takashi Murakami Paints Self Portraits, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris
- ©Murakami, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
- Solo Exhibition, Gagosian Gallery, Rome, Italy
- MURAKAMI VERSAILLES, Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
- Beyond Limits, Chatsworth, England
- Homage to Yves Klein, Galerie Perrotin, Paris
- A History of Editions, Galerie Perrotin, Paris
- Solo Exhibition, Gagosian Gallery, London
- Arhat, Blum & Poe, Culver City, California
- Jelly Fish Eyes International Premiere: Anime Film, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) April 8, 2013
- Deconstruction & Postmodernism - Session I, DOP Foundation, Caracas, Venezuela, January 2014 – March 2014
- The 500 Arhats, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
- Murakami by Murakami, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Feb 10 – May 5, 2017
- The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Jun 6 – September 24, 2017
- Under the Radiation Falls, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Sept 29, 2017 – February 8, 2018
- The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Feb 3, 2018 – May 6, 2018
- Takashi Murakami: GYATEI², Gagosian, Los Angeles, February 21 – April 13, 2019
- Hebdige, Dick (2007), "Flat Boy vs. Skinny: Takashi Murakami and the Battle for "Japan"", in Schimmel, Paul (ed.), ©Murakami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles/Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.
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- "My Lonesome Cowboy, 1998". Widewalls. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
- Yoshitake, Mika (2007), "The Meaning of the Nonsense of Excess", in Schimmel, Paul (ed.), ©Murakami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles/Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.
- Murakami, Takashi (2001), "Life As a Creator", Summon Monsters? Open the door? Heal? Or Die?, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
- Rothkopf, Scott (2007), "Takashi Murakami: Company Man", in Schimmel, Paul (ed.), ©Murakami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles/Rizzoli International
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- Interview with Pharrell Williams Art 40 Basel 2009, retrieved July 15, 2014
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- Acevedo, Angelica (April 18, 2019). "Billie Eilish Debuts Bewitching Animated Video for 'You Should See Me in a Crown'".
- Sawyer, Jonathan (February 28, 2020). "J Balvin Reveals Takashi Murakami-Designed Album Cover for 'Colores'". Highsnobiety. Highsnobiety. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
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- Takashi Murakami at the Palace of Versailles Guardian.co.uk, September 10, 2010
- Hundred-metre dash in the Economist, February 18, 2012
- livetune feat. 初音ミク「Redial」Music Video, March 20, 2013
- Jellyfish Eyes Japanese website Archived April 15, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, June 23, 2013
- Jellyfish Eyes English website, June 23, 2013
- "Paddle8 | For the 21st-century collector". www.paddle8.com. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
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