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 While Murakami’s imagery may appear to present unprecedented characters and forms, many contain explicit art historical references, and some are even direct contemporary updates on traditional Japanese works.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.
In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow
November 10, 2014–January 17, 2015
555 West 24th Street, New York
Takashi Murakami at LACMA
In a conversation recorded at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Takashi Murakami describes the process behind three major large-scale paintings, including Qinghua (2019), inspired by the motifs painted on a Chinese Yuan Dynasty porcelain vase.
Join us for an exclusive look at the installation and opening reception of Murakami & Abloh: “AMERICA TOO”.
Future History: Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh
Following their artistic collaboration in London, Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh, the recently appointed Louis Vuitton menswear designer, spoke with Derek Blasberg about how they met, their admiration for one another, and the power of collaboration to educate and impassion new audiences.
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).
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018
The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.
In collaboration with RxART, Takashi Murakami has transformed the CT/PET Scan Suite at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, by wrapping the walls and CT/PET scanner itself with a vibrant landscape featuring his signature smiling flowers. The installation has turned the once intimidating room—in which over 2,500 scans are performed each year—into an uplifting space, in an effort to alleviate the anxiety that many pediatric patients feel when they receive scans.
Takashi Murakami’s transformation of the CT/PET Scan Suite at the Children’s National Hospital, Washington, DC. Artwork ©️ Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. Photo: Kenson Noel
West Bund Art & Design 2020
November 12–15, 2020, booth A102
West Bund Art Center, Shanghai
Gagosian is pleased to participate in West Bund Art & Design 2020 with an extensive group presentation. Along with the gallery’s booth at ART021 Shanghai, on view between November 14 and 15, this will be Gagosian’s first in-person art fair since the covid-19 lockdown in March. The gallery’s participation was made possible by extraordinary support from the artists involved.
John Currin, Pistachio, 2016 © John Currin
Takashi Murakami and Tobias Berger
Tuesday, October 13, 2020, 12–1pm EDT (5–6pm BST)
As part of Frieze Talks, a prerecorded conversation between Takashi Murakami and Tobias Berger, head of art at Tai Kwun Contemporary in Hong Kong, will be released. The pair discuss the artist’s practice and personal art collection, as well as his thoughts on communicating art and the power of collaboration. To watch, visit frieze.com.
Takashi Murakami. Photo: Ricardo Miyada
Takashi Murakami in
Stars: Six Contemporary Artists from Japan to the World
Through January 3, 2021
Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Presenting six artists whose careers propelled them beyond the confines of Japan, earning them acclaim around the world, this exhibition traces their journeys, from their earliest to latest works, and explores how each artist’s practice has been evaluated within the global context. Work by Takashi Murakami is included.
Takashi Murakami, Miss Ko², 1996–2011 © 2011 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved
October 27, 2019–July 5, 2020
NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Happy! presents contemporary works produced by artists who aim to engage the viewer emotionally. In their works, as in life, sorrow and happiness are intertwined. The exhibition follows a multigenerational trajectory from the mid-twentieth century to today. Work by Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, and Andy Warhol is included.
Takashi Murakami, Open Your Hands Wide, Embrace Happiness!, 2010 © 2010 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved
Murakami Por Murakami
December 4, 2019–March 15, 2020
Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo
This exhibition, which is a regrouping of Murakami by Murakami, previously on view at the Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo, focuses on Takashi Murakami’s renowned artworks, but also presents aspects of his activities as a collector, gallerist, businessman, and activist. In the past twenty years, the artist has been extremely visible on the international art scene, but he has also taken an active role within the Japanese art world, redefining the position of the artist in society.
Takashi Murakami, Tan Tan Bo, 2001 © 2001 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved
Takashi Murakami in
November 2, 2019–March 8, 2020
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia
This exhibition features large-scale installations and classic Japanese cinema and animation alongside miniature carvings, humorous paintings, and the vibrant ukiyo-e woodblock prints that define the tradition of the supernatural in Japanese art. Centered on a monumental installation of painting and sculpture by Takashi Murakami, the show also explores Japanese artists of the past, including Katsushika Hokusai, as well as contemporary artists.
Installation view, Japan Supernatural, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, November 2, 2019–March 8, 2020. Artwork © 2020 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved