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 While Murakami’s imagery may appear to present unprecedented characters and forms, many contain explicit art historical references, and some are even direct contemporary updates on traditional Japanese works.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.
Takashi Murakami and RTFKT: An Arrow through History
Bridging the digital and the physical realms, the three-part presentation of paintings and sculptures that make up Takashi Murakami: An Arrow through History at Gagosian, New York, builds on the ongoing collaboration between the artist and RTFKT Studios. Here, Murakami and the RTFKT team explain the collaborative process, the necessity of cognitive revolution, the metaverse, and the future of art to the Quarterly’s Wyatt Allgeier.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2022
The Summer 2022 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, with two different covers—featuring Takashi Murakami’s 108 Bonnō MURAKAMI.FLOWERS (2022) and Andreas Gursky’s V & R II (2022).
Murakami on Ceramics
Takashi Murakami writes about his commitment to the work of Japanese ceramic artists associated with the seikatsu kōgei, or lifestyle crafts, movement.
Takashi Murakami and Hans Ulrich Obrist
Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews the artist on the occasion of his 2012 exhibition Takashi Murakami: Flowers & Skulls at Gagosian, Hong Kong.
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 each other, and the power of collaboration to educate and impassion new audiences.
Nobuo Tsuji vs. Takashi Murakami
From 2009 to 2011 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.
West Bund Art & Design 2023
November 9–12, 2023, booth A102
West Bund Art Center, Shanghai
Gagosian is pleased to participate in West Bund Art & Design with an extensive group presentation. The gallery will exhibit works by Harold Ancart, Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Hao Liang, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Alex Israel, Jia Aili, Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Ed Ruscha, Alexandria Smith, Spencer Sweeney, Cameron Welch, Jonas Wood, and Zeng Fanzhi.
Gagosian’s booth at West Bund Art & Design 2023. Artwork, left to right: © Zeng Fanzhi; © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany 2023; © Spencer Sweeney; © Yayoi Kusama. Photo: Alessandro Wang
Frieze Seoul 2023
September 7–9, 2023, booth C14
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Frieze Seoul 2023 with a presentation of contemporary works by gallery artists, including Derrick Adams, Georg Baselitz, Dan Colen, Edmund de Waal, Jadé Fadojutimi, Urs Fischer, Cy Gavin, Mehdi Ghadyanloo, Nan Goldin, Katharina Grosse, Jennifer Guidi, Thomas Houseago, Alex Israel, Rick Lowe, Takashi Murakami, Nam June Paik, Giuseppe Penone, Ed Ruscha, Alexandria Smith, Anna Weyant, Stanley Whitney, Jonas Wood, and Richard Wright, among others.
Coinciding with the fair is the arrival of Jiyoung Lee, who was recently appointed to lead the gallery’s operations in Korea. Lee joins Gagosian following nearly fifteen years based in Seoul working on behalf of both Korean and Western galleries. Her appointment builds on the gallery’s establishment of a business entity in Korea last year, and provides for expanded activities in the region.
Gagosian’s booth at Frieze Seoul 2023. Artwork, left to right: © Jadé Fadojutimi, © Jen Guidi, © Alexandria Smith, © Mehdi Ghadyanloo, © Rick Lowe Studio, © Jonas Wood. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Takashi Murakami: Understanding the New Cognitive Domain
June 10–December 22, 2023
Gagosian, Le Bourget
In conjunction with the exhibition Takashi Murakami: Understanding the New Cognitive Domain, Gagosian is presenting a pop-up shop at the Le Bourget gallery. The shop features all things Takashi Murakami, including catalogues and monographs on the artist as well as a wide selection of merchandise produced by his studio, Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd., ranging from keychains and stickers to clothing, cushions, and skateboards. Limited-edition luxury apparel and signed editions—including a print based on the painting ZEUSMAP-X (2023), which is presented in the exhibition—are also available.
The pop-up shop is open during exhibition hours. New products will be released twice during the run of the exhibition. Forthcoming details will be announced on Gagosian’s Instagram account.
“Takashi Murakami: Understanding the New Cognitive Domain” Pop-Up Shop, Gagosian, Le Bourget, 2023. Artwork © 2023 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. Photo: Thomas Lannes
Unfamiliar People—Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego
Through February 12, 2024
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
In this exhibition of work by Takashi Murakami the artist uses monsters as a central motif to address the complicated nature of the world around us. The show includes large-scale paintings and sculptures and several newly created works that respond to the impact of the global pandemic and a shift toward virtual interaction. Paintings of distorted figures reflect the swelling egos of individuals relentlessly promoting themselves on social media, while works recording the artist’s creation of NFTs, including avatars, look with optimism toward a digitally liberated future.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: Unfamiliar People—Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego,
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, September 15, 2023–February 12, 2024. Artwork © 2023 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. Photo: Joshua White
January 26–April 16, 2023
Busan Museum of Art, South Korea
This large-scale retrospective features paintings, sculptures, installations, and video art by Takashi Murakami, including some of the artist’s earliest pieces which have never before been shown publicly. This is the fourth exhibition in the series Lee Ufan and His Friends, in which international artists respond to Ufan’s practice. The works on view deploys a “zombie aesthetic” emblematic of the collective anxiety of the contemporary world and increasingly prevalent throughout pop culture.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: MurakamiZombie, Busan Museum of Art, South Korea, January 26–April 16, 2023. Artwork © 2023 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. Photo: Josh White
Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow
May 21–September 25, 2022
The Broad, Los Angeles
This exhibition, which includes all of Takashi Murakami’s works in the Broad collection as well as key loans, features eighteen works created throughout his career and new immersive environments developed in tandem with the artist and his studio, Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. In these works, spanning sculpture, painting, wallpaper, and immersive installations, the artist explores subject matter such as globalization, postwar Japan, pop culture, and religious iconography.
Installation view, Takashi Murakami: Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, The Broad, Los Angeles, May 21–September 25, 2022. Artwork © 2022 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. Photo: Joshua White
Artists Inspired by Music
January 30–February 13, 2022
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
To mark the thirtieth anniversary of Interscope Records, the company invited artists to select albums and songs from Interscope’s groundbreaking catalogue and fostered exchanges between artists and musicians to generate resonant pairings. The exhibition, which includes more than fifty works, brings an intergenerational group of visual artists into dialogue with iconic musicians from the last three decades, providing a fresh perspective on influential music for the present moment. Work by John Currin, Jennifer Guidi, Damien Hirst, Titus Kaphar, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, and Anna Weyant is included.
Jennifer Guidi, Seeking Hearts (Black MT, Pink Sand, Pink CS, Pink Ground), 2021 © Jennifer Guidi. Photo: Brica Wilcox