We want to see the newest things. That is because we want to see the future, even if only momentarily. It is the moment in which, even if we don’t completely understand what we have glimpsed, we are nonetheless touched by it. This is what we have come to call art.
Drawing from traditional Japanese painting, sci-fi, anime, and the global art market, Takashi Murakami creates paintings, sculptures, and films populated by repeated motifs and mutating characters of his own creation. His wide-ranging work embodies an intersection of pop culture, history, and fine art.
Murakami earned a BA, MFA, and PhD from Tokyo University of the Arts, where he studied nihonga (traditional Japanese painting). In 1996 he established the Hiropon Factory, a studio/workshop that in subsequent years grew into an art production and artist management company, now known as Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd.
Since the early 1990s Murakami has invented characters that combine aspects of popular cartoons from Japan, Europe, and the US—from his first Mr. DOB, who sometimes serves as a stand-in for the artist himself, to various anime characters and smiling flowers, bears, and lions. These figures act as icons and symbols—hosts for more complex themes of violence, technology, and fantasy.
In 2000 Murakami curated Superflat, an exhibition featuring works by artists whose techniques and mediums synthesize various aspects of Japanese visual culture, from ukiyo-e (woodblock prints of the Edo period) to anime and kawaii (a particular cuteness in cartoons, handwriting, products, and more). With this exhibition, Murakami advanced his Superflat theory of art, which highlights the “flatness” of Japanese visual culture from traditional painting to contemporary subcultures in the context of World War II and its aftermath.
Murakami’s work extends to mass-produced items such as toys, key chains, and t-shirts. In 2002 he began a multiyear collaboration with Marc Jacobs on the redesign of the Louis Vuitton monogram. Murakami then took the radical step of directly incorporating the Vuitton monograms and patterns into his paintings and sculptures. While Murakami’s imagery may appear to present unprecedented characters and forms, many contain explicit art historical references, and some are even direct contemporary updates on traditional Japanese works.
In 2009 Murakami and the esteemed art historian Nobuo Tsuji began a creative dialogue centered on a group of Japanese artists known as the Edo eccentrics. This collaboration led to an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2017, for which Murakami and Tsuji selected Japanese works from the museum’s collection and showed them alongside works by Murakami. The latter included Dragon in Clouds—Red Mutation: The version I painted myself in annoyance after Professor Nobuo Tsuji told me, “Why don’t you paint something yourself for once?” (2010), a red monochrome version of the famous eighteenth-century painting Dragon and Clouds by Soga Shōhaku.
Following the Tōhoku earthquake of 2011 and the subsequent nuclear crisis at Fukushima, Murakami began deeply exploring the impact of historical natural disasters on Japanese art and culture. In his 2014 Gagosian exhibition at West 24th Street in New York, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, he created an immersive installation of eclectic arhats; deliquescing clones of his fictional creature Mr. DOB; and karajishi, the mythic lions that guard Japanese Buddhist temples, that visitors entered through a replica of a sanmon (sacred gate).
Not only does Murakami merge different time periods, styles, and subject matter in his work, but his approach to art crosses the boundaries between gallery, studio, art fair, and media as well. Along with creating paintings and sculptures, he has hosted art fairs for emerging artists, curated exhibitions, and made films featuring his many characters and motifs. Combining fantasy, science, and history, he shows that none of these categories can be considered in isolation.
Change the Rule!
September 20–November 10, 2018
Murakami & Abloh
June 23–July 28, 2018
Murakami & Abloh
February 21–April 7, 2018
Davies Street, London
In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow
November 10, 2014–January 17, 2015
West 24th Street, New York
Flowers & Skulls
November 29, 2012–February 9, 2013
June 27–August 5, 2011
Britannia Street, London
November 13, 2010–January 22, 2011
Picture of Fate: I Am But a Fisherman Who Angles in the Darkness of His Mind
September 17–October 24, 2009
West 24th Street, New York
From the Quarterly
Nobuo Tsuji vs. Takashi Murakami
From 2009–11 the eminent art historian Nobuo Tsuji and Takashi Murakami engaged in a reimagined e-awase (painting contest). In this twenty-one-round contest, newly published in Battle Royale! Japanese Art History, Tsuji selects historical works and Murakami responds creatively. Round 6 centers on the Edo Eccentric painter Soga Shōhaku and his monumental Dragon and Clouds (1763).
Fairs, Events & Announcements
June 14–17, 2018
Messe Basel, booth B11
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel 2018, presenting works by modern and contemporary artists including Georg Baselitz, John Chamberlain, Dan Colen, John Currin, Willem de Kooning, Urs Fischer, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellen Gallagher, Jennifer Guidi, Andreas Gursky, Neil Jenney, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, Takashi Murakami, Giuseppe Penone, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Richard Serra, Rudolf Stingel, Mark Tansey, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Mary Weatherford, and Tom Wesselmann. To receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at email@example.com. To preview our booth go to www.artsy.net. To purchase tickets to attend the fair go to www.artbasel.com.
Georg Baselitz, Frau am Strand (Woman on the Beach), 1981 © Georg Baselitz 2018
For Your Infotainment: Hudson and Feature Inc.
May 3–6, 2018, booth FYI6
Randall’s Island Park, New York
Curated by Matthew Higgs, For Your Infotainment: Hudson and Feature Inc.—the first-ever themed section at Frieze New York—will be dedicated to the legacy of the fiercely independent art dealer Hudson and his seminal New York– and Chicago-based gallery Feature Inc. This section will feature artists who received their gallery debuts or had a long history at Feature Inc. in the 1980s and ’90s, including Takashi Murakami, whose booth will be presented by Gagosian.
Takashi Murakami, Rose Milk, 1997 © 1997 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved
April 28–29, 2018, booth B8
Grimaldi Forum, Monaco
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Artmonte-Carlo 2018, presenting a selection of works by artists including Richard Artschwager, Davide Balula, Glenn Brown, Michael Craig-Martin, Edmund de Waal, Damien Hirst, Peter Lindbergh, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, Sterling Ruby, and Taryn Simon. To receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org. To preview our booth go to www.artsy.net. To purchase tickets to attend the fair go to www.artmontecarlo.ch.
Sterling Ruby, Heart (6634), 2018 © Sterling Ruby Studio. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer
The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg
June 10–September 16, 2018
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth will present a major retrospective of Takashi Murakami’s paintings, featuring fifty works that span three decades of his career, from the artist’s earliest mature works to his recent, monumentally scaled paintings. This exhibition originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and traveled from the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Takashi Murakami, Klein’s Pot A, 1994–97 © 2018 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. Photo: Yoshitaka Uchida
In Tune with the World
April 11–August 27, 2018
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
In Tune with the World aims to reflect on today’s questions about one’s place in the universe and the bonds that tie humans to their surrounding environment. The exhibition highlights the interconnections between humans, animals, plants, and even inanimate objects. Work by Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein, and Takashi Murakami is included.
Takashi Murakami, a.k.a Gero Tan: Noah’s Ark, 2016 © 2018 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved
No Place Like Home
March 1–June 3, 2018
Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon, Portugal
In celebration of Dada’s one hundredth anniversary in 2016 and the centennial of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain in 2017, this exhibition examines how artists have incorporated commonplace household items into their work, removing these objects from the context of the home in ways that subvert the experiences of daily life. This exhibit has traveled from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Work by Duchamp, Duane Hanson, Damien Hirst, Man Ray, Takashi Murakami, Nam June Paik, Robert Therrien, and Andy Warhol is included.
Robert Therrien, No title (table leg), 2010 © Robert Therrien/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Peter Cox
The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg
February 3–May 6, 2018
Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery presents a major retrospective of Takashi Murakami’s paintings, featuring fifty works that span three decades of his career, from the artist’s earliest mature works to his recent, monumentally scaled paintings. This exhibition has traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Takashi Murakami, Kansei Gold, 2008 © 2018 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Joshua White/JWPictures.com, courtesy the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo