Takashi Murakami (村上 隆 Murakami Takashi?, born in Tokyo 1962) is an internationally prolific contemporary Japanese artist.
He works in fine arts media—such as painting and sculpture—as well as what is conventionally considered commercial media —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. Superflat is also used as a moniker to describe Murakami’s own artistic style and that of other Japanese artists he has influenced.
Here comes Media
Murakami is the founder and President of Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., through which he manages the careers of several younger artists and organizes the biannual art fair GEISAI.
Oval Buddha, 2007-2010. Bronze and gold leaf. Exhibited at Versailles, France.
Life and career
Academic Background and Early Career
Takashi Murakami was born and raised in Tokyo.(Japan) From early on, he was an enthusiastic follower of animation and manga (Japanese comics), and aspired to one day work in the animation industry. He attended T.U.A Tokyo University of the Arts, originally seeking 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 the field’s insular, highly political world and started to explore more contemporary artistic styles, mediums, and strategies.
Murakami was unsatisfied 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. Efforts from this period include performance art (Osaka Mixer Project, 1992), parodies of the “message” art popular in Japan in the early 90’s, (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.
Daruma Initiate the speed, 2008″
In 1994, Murakami received a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council and participated in the PS1 International Studio Program in New York 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. While in New York, 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.
Kaikai Kiki LOTS OF FUN
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. He felt that these had the potential to be the key elements for his work. His signature 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 strategic concept.
Flower Matango, 2001-2006. Fibreglass, iron, acrylic paint. Exhibited at Versailles, France.
In 2000, Murakami published his “Superflat” theory in the catalogue for a group exhibition of the same name that he curated for theMuseum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
The theory posits that there is a legacy of flat, 2-dimensional imagery which has existed throughout Japanese art history and continues today 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’.
Flower Ball Blood 3-D 2009
The theory provided the contextual background for his work and he further elaborated on it with the subsequent 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 exhibitions helped introduce Japan’s lesser-known creative culture overseas and such curatorial projects would become an integral part of Murakami’s multifaceted artistic practice.
Purple Flowers in a Bouquet 2010
In accordance with the Superflat concept, Murakami’s practice involves repackaging elements that are 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 an increasingly 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.
Puka Puka 1999
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 fashion house’s signature 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 won him widespread fame and notoriety as an artist who blurs 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 Graduation album and directed an animated music video for West’s song Good Morning.
In both cases above, Murakami would later ‘re-appropriate’ these projects by incorporating imagery from such projects into his paintings and sculptures, further blurring the boundaries between art and commercial branding and even questioning the existence of such a boundary.
KaiKai KiKi News (Original 2001)
Asked by interviewer Magdalene Perez 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 2009 a Murakami sculpture collaboration with Pharrell Williams was revealed at Art Basel, which sold for $2m.
In November, 2003, ArtNews reported Murakami’s work as being among the most desired in the world. Hiropon, a life-sized satirical sculpture of an anime character with gigantic lactating breasts, sold for $427,500 at Christie’s auction house in May, 2002. One year later a second sculpture, Miss Ko2, sold for $567,500. His work has continued to rise in value and in May 2008, “My Lonesome Cowboy” (1998), an anime-inspired sculpture of a masturbating boy, sold for $13.5 million at Sotheby’s.
From 2007 to 2009, Murakami’s first retrospective ©Murakami traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, to theBrooklyn Museum of Art in New York, the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, and lastly the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain. 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.
Since 2010, Murakami has supported “CHAOS*LOUNGE”(ja:カオス*ラウンジ). (“CHAOS*LOUNGE” is one of modern art group in Japan. See also: Pixiv#Chaos Lounge controversy)
In September, 2010 Murakami became the third contemporary artist, and first Japanese, to exhibit his works 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, the exhibition showcased 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.
Murakami’s art encompasses a wide range of mediums and is generally described as superflat. His work 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 most famous recurring motifs are smiling flowers, iconic characters, mushrooms, skulls, Buddhist iconography, and the sexual complexes of otaku culture.
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.
On 21 June 2011, Google featured a doodle tagged as “First Day of Summer” which was created by Murakami. This was accompanied by a Winter Solstice doodle for the Southern Hemisphere.
Lotu Flower Pink 2010
Kaikai Kiki and Artist Management
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 select 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 Kaikai Kiki’s management but also international names such as Mark Grotjahn and Friedrich Kunath. All exhibitions are curated by Murakami.
A second Gallery called Hidari Zingaro was opened in 2010 and has now expanded to include four separate locations within the Nakano Broadway shopping mall in Nakano, Tokyo.
Since 2002, Murakami has been organizing a unique direct-participatory art fair called GEISAI. GEISAI is held twice a year, currently once in Tokyo and once in Taipei, and has also been held in Miami. Rather than give space to pre-screened galleries, GEISAI allows artists to create their own booths and interact directly with potential buyers.
• Murakami, Takashi “Geijutsu Kigyoron”
• Murakami, Takashi “Geijutsu Tosoron”
• Murakami, Takashi “Summon Monsters? Open The Door? Heal? Or Die?”
• Murakami, Takashi “Superflat”
• Murakami, Takashi “Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture”
• Cruz, Amanda/Friis-Hansen, Dana/Matsui, Midori “Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning”
• Schimmel, Paul “©Murakami”
• Le Bon, Laurent “Murakami Versailles
Daruma I am not me. I cannot become myself 2007″
• “Ego”, ALRIWAQ Doha Exhibition Space, Qatar
• “Beyond Limits”, Chatsworth, England
“Homage to Yves Klein“, Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
• “A History of Editions“, Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
• “Solo Exhibition” Gagosian Gallery, London, England
• “Solo Exhibition” Gagosian Gallery, Rome, Italy
• “MURAKAMI VERSAILLES” Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
• “I Love Prints and So I Make Them” ARKI Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
• “I Love Prints and So I Make Them” Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
• “Takashi Murakami Paints Self Portraits” Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
• “©MURAKAMI” Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
• “Davy Jone’s Tear,” Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, CA
• “©MURAKAMI”Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany
• “Takashi Murakami: Prints “My First Art” Series, Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo
• “©MURAKAMI” Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
• “Tranquility of the heart, torment of the flesh ― open wide the eye of the heart, and nothing is invisible”
• “The Pressure Point of Painting“, Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
• “Opening of Gallery Extension“, Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
• “Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Pop Culture“, Japan Society, New York,USA
• “Outdoor Banner Installation“, Public Art Fund, New York, USA
• “Funny Cuts“, Stuttgart Museum of Art, Stuttgart, Germany
• “Takashi Murakami: Inochi“, Blum & Poe Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
• “Superflat Monogram“, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
• “Superflat Monogram“, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, USA
• “Double Helix Reversal“, Rockefeller Center, New York, USA
• “Kawaii“, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France; Serpentine Gallery, London, UK
• “Wink“, Grand Central Station, New York, USA
• “Mushroom“, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, USA
• “KaiKai KiKi“, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
• “Summon monsters ? open the door? heal? or die ?“, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
• “Takashi Murakami: Made in Japan“, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
• “727“, Blum & Poe Gallery, Santa Monica, California, USA
• “Second mission Project KO2“, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, USA
• “Kaikai Kiki :Superflat“, Issey Miyake for Men, Tokyo, Japan
• “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, Japan
• “The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning“, Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Bart College, New York, USA
• “Superflat“, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, USA
• “Love & DOB“, Gallery KOTO, Okayama, Japan
• “Hiropon Project KoKo_Pity Sakurako Jet Airplane Nos. 1-6“, Feature Inc., New York USA
• “Back Beat : Super Flat“, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
• “My Lonesome Cowboy“, Blum & Poe Gallery, Santa Monica, California, USA
• “Moreover, DOB raises his hand“, Sagacho bis, Tokyo, Japan
• Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
• Blum & Poe Gallery, Santa Monica, California, USA
• Galerie Koto, Okayama, Japan
• “The Other Side of a Flash of Light“, HAP Art Space, Hiroshima, Japan
• “727“, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
• “727“, Aoi Gallery Osaka, Japan
• “Feature Inc.“, New York, USA
• Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, USA
• Galerie Koto, Okayama, Japan
• “Konnichiwa, Mr. DOB“, Kirin Art Plaza, Osaka, Japan
• “A Very Merry Unbirthday, To You, To Me!“, Ginza Komatsu, Tokyo, Japan
• Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
• “NIJI (Rainbow)“, Gallery Koto, Okayama, Japan
• “Crasy Z“, SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan
• “Mr. Doomsday Balloon“, Yngtingagatan 1, Stockholm, Suède
• “Fujisan“, Gallery Koto, Okayama, Japan
• “Which is tommorow ? – Fall in love -“, SCAI The Bathhouse, Shiraishi Contemporary Art, Inc., Tokyo, Japan
• “Azami Kikyo, Ominaeshi“, Gallery Aoi, Osaka, Japan
• “A Romantic Evening“, Gallery Cellar, Nagoya, Japan
• “A Very Merry Unbirthday !“, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima,
• Gallery Nasubi, Tokyo, Japan
• “A Romantic Evening“, Gallery Cellar, Nagoya, Japan 1992
• “Wild Wild“, Röntgen Kunst Institut, Tokyo, Japan
• “NICAF’92“, Shirashi Contemporary Art Inc., Yokohama, Japan
• Art Gallery at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Tokyo, Japan
• Galerie Aoi, Osaka, Japan
• “One Night Exhibition, 23rd August“, Röntgen Kunst Institut, Tokyo, Japan
• “I Am Against Being For It“, Galerie Aries, Tokyo, Japan
• Hosomi Contemporary Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
• “Exhibition L’Espoir : Takashi Murakami“, Galerie Ginza Surugadai, Tokyo, Japan
• “Takashi Murakami : New Works“, Café Tiens!, Tokyo, Japan