Painting, sculpture, design, animation, fashion - this is an incomplete list of areas of interest of the famous Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. At the age of 60, he became one of the most famous artists of our time, finding followers and establishing a new artistic style. Our language lacks words to describe a personality of such scale. Murakami's life is a continuous search for himself, his way, and new artistic forms. Therefore, art critics use the term "universe" to describe the creative achievements of the master.
The path to success
The future master of Japanese art was born in Tokyo, Japan. A childhood passion for manga comics determined the scope of Murakami's future professional activity. To study animation, he entered the Tokyo University of the Arts, where he plunged into the world of Japanese traditional painting Nihonga. New knowledge radically influenced Murakami's worldview and adjusted the vector of his creative path. The artist was seriously concerned about the influence of Western art on contemporary Japanese culture, claiming that "traces of Western borrowing" can be found everywhere.
«Tan Tan Bo (2016)» Takashi Murakami. Photos © elpais.com
At the early stage of his career, Murakami focused on social issues, and performance became the primary tool in his creative arsenal. One such event Osaka Mixer Project (1992), attracted the attention of critics and the public. At this time, the artist's brand was born - a stylized creature from 3-year-old Murakami's childhood nightmares called Mr. DOB. Somewhat reminiscent of Mickey Mouse, but with creepy sharp teeth and psychedelic spirals in his eyes. In the following years, the image of this creature regularly appeared in the artist's work in various modifications.
In 1994, the master visited New York, where he was acquainted with the achievements of neo-pop art and other areas of contemporary art. Later he opened his studio here and began to hold personal exhibitions in the USA, EU, and Asian countries. From that moment began the most fruitful period in the artist's professional career, which continues to this day.
Contribution of the master to Japanese culture
Reflecting on Western European and Japanese painting differences, Murakami concluded that volumetric forms do not characterize Japanese aesthetics. In his opinion, the traditional culture of the Japanese islands has always used two-dimensional objects to embody beauty on canvas. Therefore, the modern transition to the ideals of Western-style painting is detrimental to its authentic essence. As an alternative, capable of breathing life into contemporary Japanese art, Murakami proposed the so-called super flat (literally: superplane). This is a new artistic style and visual language, the main idea of which was the rejection of volumes. All images are composed by using planes. The artist proposed to consider superflat as a general principle of building ideas in art and mass culture. Works of masters in this style, who followed Murakami's example, are devoted to various topics: fetishism, sex, consumption, fear of growing up, and depending on something.
«Matango flower (d)» Takashi Murakami. Photos © pinterest.es
In the works in the super flat style, you can observe some constantly repeated elements: images from Buddhist iconography, mushrooms, skulls, smiling flowers, and other art. The artist uses canvas as a space for his creative ideas. Sculptures, balloons, animation, prints, and posters brought him worldwide fame.
The master prefers various types of prints, posters, and small art forms in his work. For this reason, there are practically no Murakami paintings in the traditional sense of the word on the art market. But this does not prevent the artist's works from regularly becoming lots at world-famous auctions.
An Homage to IKB 1957 C
This lithograph is one of the most famous in the world. Images of smiling flowers appear in other works of Murakami but a different color scheme. The bright cartoon style of the pictures appeals to the basic standards of consumer culture - enjoy and rejoice. It is difficult to say whether the composition of this artwork has a deep meaning, but the refusal to use complex philosophical ideas has long been the hallmark of the master. In 2014, it was sold at Christie's for 4000 pounds sterling.
Tan Tan Bo (2016)
One of the avatars of Mr. DOB, Murakami's Alter Ego. The artwork is created in the technique of screen printing with the gold leaf. From the picture, the viewer looks at the Japanese version of the smiling Mickey Mouse with the expressive manner of expressing emotions inherent in this culture. The work contains many decorative small details and traditional symbols of the artist's work.
Another avatar of Mr. DOB. In the picture, waves roll on him, made in the manner of traditional Japanese painting. Sharp teeth somewhat distract the viewer from the primary contour. At first glance, it may even seem that an angry fish is looking at us from the waves, not Mr. DOB. Murakami created the smoky space surrounding the creature by applying and sanding about 20 layers of acrylic paint. The work can be considered an excellent example of the realization of the artist's aesthetic concept, which he described through negation: "not bound by frames, not connected to the system, not filled with information. It is a blank sheet".
The master uses traditional motifs and images in his sculptures. To create his works, he uses modern materials and paints.
«Miss Ko2» Takashi Murakami. Photos © animeler.net
Despite the cartoonishness of the images, his works are popular among art lovers and regularly replenish collections of artworks in the style of Japanese pop art.
Matango flower (d)
Today Matango Flower (d) is in a private collection. The figurine was created in 2009 from steel, fiberglass, oil, and acrylic. Laughing flowers form a miniature globe with sprouting plants. According to critics, this work symbolizes the integrity of the artist's inner world.
DOB in the Strange Forest
Among the funny figurines of colorful mushrooms with eyes, we can see Mr. DOB, familiar to all fans of Murakami's work. The master created the composition in 1999.
«DOB in the Strange Forest» Takashi Murakami. Photos © pinchukartcentre.org
Figures are steel, plastic, reinforced fiberglass, resin, and acrylic.
The best proof of Murakami's influence is the constant flow of proposals for cooperation from famous brands and stars. The cartoon style of the artist makes his work as understandable and accessible to the consumer of mass culture as possible.
Hublot brand watches
The Elite Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow watch was first presented to the public in 2021. Enclosed in a transparent case, the wristwatch has the contours of the famous smiling flowers. A unique mechanism built into the watch case makes a full rotation of the dial around the axis during the day. Genuine gemstones of all rainbow colors are used to decorate the petals.
Cover for Kanye West's album
In 2018, the news of the release of Kanye West's new album "Kids Saw Ghosts," the cover of which was drawn by Murakami, spread around the network. Fans of the American rapper's work saw psychedelic images of ghosts drawn in the super flat style. The Japanese artist created several covers for Kanye West's albums.
Louis Vuitton Murakami bags
Fashion bags first appeared on the market in 2002 due to a fruitful collaboration between Louis Vuitton's creative director Marc Jacobs and Murakami. Multicolor Monogram accessories immediately became the center of attention, so immediately after the start of sales, fans of the brand announced a real hunt for them. In addition, the artist developed models of the decorative design of bottles for elite alcohol and helped to create commercials. In total, Murakami's cooperation with Louis Vuitton lasted 13 years.
KyivGallery art critic