“Tell me,” the emperor of China asked Daruma, “What is the first principle of Buddhism?”
“Vast emptiness, nothing holy!” Daruma replied.
“Who are you?” the emperor demanded, thoroughly perplexed.
“I don’t know!” Daruma announced, departing as suddenly as he had arrived.
Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Takashi Murakami. This is Murakami’s first exhibition with the gallery.
Beneath its bright and playful appearance, Murakami’s art is at work challenging established dichotomies. In his approach, high art and popular culture, East and West, present and past, humor and gravity, skepticism and belief are all sides of the same coin. Visually, his work merges the dystopic worlds of popular contemporary Japanese anime and manga cartoons with the ultra-refined techniques of traditional Japanese art. Operationally, he combines the work of the factory and production studio with that of the guild, resulting in a staggering body of work ranging from rare masterpieces to inexpensive, mass-produced commodities.
Departing from his well-known utopian and dystopian themes—which feature masses of smiling flowers, elaborate scenes of cartoonish apocalypse, and the ever-morphing cult figures of Mr. DOB and Mr. Pointy—Murakami surprises here with a group of monumental portraits of Daruma, the grand patriarch of Zen art. Daruma was an Indian sage who lived during the fifth or sixth century CE and was the founder of Zen Buddhism. Legend has it that he attained enlightenment after sitting in meditation before the wall of the Shaolin monastery for nine years, without blinking his eyes. During this process, his arms and legs atrophied, withered, and fell off. In today’s Japan, Daruma’s continuing popularity as the embodiment of resilience and determination has given rise to an entire industry of good luck charms in the form of armless, legless, and eyeless dolls, available in endless variations. Murakami’s interpretations of the icon are similarly varied, fusing tradition with a heterogeneous range of artistic and cultural inspirations.
Zen’s assimilation into Japanese culture was accompanied by the introduction of green tea, which was used to ward off drowsiness during the lengthy zazen (seated meditation) sessions. The tea ceremony—which began as a sumptuous secular custom in the mercantile class and gradually evolved into an ascetic ritual that is practiced widely today in Japan—is still enacted in its original form in honor of Daruma in certain Japanese Zen monasteries. Embracing this tradition, Murakami will inaugurate his exhibition at Gagosian with a private traditional tea ceremony conducted by Sen So-oku, a descendant of Sen no Rikyu, the reverend sixteenth-century tea master.
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 the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow
November 10, 2014–January 17, 2015
555 West 24th Street, New York