Murakami, Takashi

Murakami, Takashi
▪ 2006

      By 2005 Takashi Murakami, who had been dubbed the Japanese Andy Warhol, had reached a new level of success in his career as an artist, curator, product designer, theorist, and entrepreneur. At the Japan Society Gallery in New York City, Murakami curated the exhibition “Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture,” which was on view from April to July. The show, featuring young Japanese artists, examined the otaku movement that revolves around anime (Japanese animated films) and manga (comic books)—two industries at the heart of Japanese popular culture. From July through October, he displayed his monumental sculpture Tongari-Kun—Mr. Pointy & the Four Guards in Tokyo's fashionable Roppongi Hills development. This colourful, meticulously crafted work, modeled on a Buddha statue, was the fourth edition of a piece that had charmed many people in 2003 outside Rockefeller Center, New York City.

      Murakami was born on Feb. 2, 1962, in Tokyo. He studied Japanese painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1986 and a Ph.D. in 1993. Murakami's numerous solo and group exhibitions were international in scope. He made his European debut in 1995 at “TransCulture,” held at the 46th Venice Biennale. The following year Murakami's paintings and sculptures were featured in many exhibitions worldwide, notably at the second “Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art” at the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.

      Although many observers in Japan were surprised that a young artist with a background in traditional Japanese painting could achieve such success in contemporary art, Murakami saw similarities between the flat composition of Japanese painting and the simplified aesthetics of anime and manga. His style, which emphasized two-dimensional forms and bold, striking imagery, gave birth to what became known as the Superflat movement and allowed Murakami to move readily between the commercial and art worlds. After curating an exhibition in 2002 at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, he collaborated in 2003 with Louis Vuitton's artistic director, Marc Jacobs, to produce a fashion accessory. Murakami's brightly coloured Louis Vuitton monogram handbags became a phenomenal success, with reported sales of $300 million. He earned celebrity status in May 2003 when his Miss Ko2 (pronounced “ko ko”), a fibreglass sculpture of a large-breasted 1.85-m (6-ft)-tall blonde in a petite waitress uniform, was auctioned in New York City for $567,500 at Christie's; the price set a record for a work by a contemporary Japanese artist.

      As the founder of Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., an art production company with offices in both Japan and Brooklyn, N.Y., Murakami nurtured young artists and helped them gain international exposure. His company produced and sold merchandise ranging from art items to clothing and organized an art festival and convention twice a year in Tokyo. At a Murakami retrospective scheduled for 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, he planned to include an animated film featuring his work.

Kimiyo Naka-Michaeli

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Universalium. 2010.

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