Takashi Murakami: A Collector’s Guide
5 things you need to know about the “The Warhol of Japan,” Takashi Murakami.
Works featured on offer at West Chelsea Contemporary.
World-renowned artist Takashi Murakami is known for his contemporary union of fine art and pop culture, with specific references to Japanese visual culture. His colorful anime and manga cartoon style is supported by a boldly graphic approach that often depicts repeated motifs and mutating characters across his paintings, sculptures, and films. Murakami’s works are a host of interacting themes and imagery that contain historical, contemporary, and cross-cultural influences to stimulate a playful visual discourse between fine and commercial art.
Read on below to discover five things every trendy collector should know about Takashi Murakami.
- Murakami studied Nihonga, traditional Japanese painting, at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music where he received his BFA, MFA, and PhD. Murakami attended the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts from 1986-1993. He studied traditional Japanese painting, Nihonga, which led him to infuse the aesthetics of traditional Japanese fine art into his contemporary postmodern style. Murakami’s interest in the arts began in his early childhood from his mother practicing needle point and design textiles. His teenage interest in Japanese animation led Murakami to study animation production. His unique expression would not have been possible if it weren’t for the valuable skills and knowledge Murakami gained through these studies.
- Murakami first received recognition as a sculptor during the early 1990s, exploring Otaku (the Japanese term for an obsession with anime and cartoons). Murakami had an early appreciation of both traditional Japanese culture and modern European art, however, Japanese animation had the most significant impact on him during his adolescent years. This explains why a major part of his works are dedicated to the Otaku audience, a subculture interested in apocalyptic and fetishistic imagery. In order to produce his Otaku-inspired sculptures, Murakami founded the Hiropon Factory in 1996. The Hiropon factory grew to become a fully professionalized art production studio and artist management organization known as Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd.
- He established the “superflat” aesthetic, a post-modern style influenced by Japanese manga and anime. Murakami curated his postmodern art style by drawing inspiration from Japanese culture, country and the contemporary art world. He believed it was important to represent his country and bring its unique culture to the mainstream art world, thus the style “superflat” emerged. “Superflat” is the combination of commercial graphic design flatness and cartoon characters from Japanese comics with aesthetic considerations of Japanese fine art, such as the two-dimensionality one sees on old Japanese scrolls. Murakami states “My aesthetic sense was formed at a young age by what surrounded me: the narrow residential spaces of Japan and the mental escapes from those spaces that took the forms of manga and anime.”
- Turning artistry into industry, the artist has created an empire from self-branding through his art. Murakami has embraced commerce through the founding of Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., an artist management agency and studio based in both New York and Munich. His support of the commercial side of art reached its peak in 2003, when the artist began collaborating with Marc Jacobs in the redesign of the Louis Vuitton logo and handbags. Murakami’ artistic merchandise has merged the worlds of fine art, popular culture, and consumerism.
- Beyond working with commercial brands, Murakami’s expansive career also includes collaborations with famous musicians. In 2007, Murakami provided the cover artwork for rapper Kanye West’s album Graduation. He continued to work with West when designing his new album cover for Kids See Ghosts in 2018. Murakami collaborated with Billie Eilish in production of her music video for you should see me in a crown. The animated video features an anime Eilish and many familiar characters from the artist’s body of work, including his signature smiling flowers. Murakami has also joined forces with Pharrell Williams for their sculpture, The Simple Things, in 2008.
What’s on now at WCC:
West Chelsea Contemporary’s nearly 8,000 square-foot gallery offers the opportunity to highlight work on a monumental scale. From 16-foot originals by RETNA and Cey Adams to colossal sculptural work—including a larger than life mixed media shark and painted aluminum spaceman—the gallery is activated by art world giant’s not only in a metaphorical sense.
By contemplating ground-breaking movements from the past six decades, Icons & Vandals allows viewers to rediscover and redefine the art world’s most iconic and contentious house-hold names. These artists have left their mark on the development and progression of contemporary art by subverting the norms of their own time. Through this show it becomes clear that these two labels are not mutually exclusive but in fact ingrained in their interconnectedness.
Works from ICONS & VANDALS will be on display and for sale at West Chelsea Contemporary in beginning May 15.
Reach out today to inquire or acquire.