Artist Feature: Takashi Murakami
Takashi Murakami’s dazzling artwork straddles the line between cultural product and high art. His paintings, sculptures, digital work, and merchandise are brought to life by the artist’s magical and somewhat psychedelic contemporary Pop Art style. Laughing flowers and the omnipresent Mr. DOB character pops up again and again, as a kind of plot throughline in his body of work. He has worked with many famous musicians and designer clothing houses, as well as selling licensed merchandise of his own work for affordable prices. Murakami’s work with these artists and his own merchandise make his art much more affordable for people beyond the super-rich.
Takashi Murakami was raised in Tokyo and was an anime and manga fan from early childhood. He wanted to be an animator when he grew up, and indeed, attended art school to get a degree in animation. However, once he was in school, Murakami changed paths and graduated with a degree in Nihonga, the traditional art of Japanese painting. He went on to get a Masters and PHD, although he soon began drifting away from the strict style constraints. Murakami realized that there was not a strong contemporary art culture in Japan, and he was determined to create not only a movement but a sustainable market for Japanese contemporary art.
To do so, he established himself in America and then exported his art back to Japan. He then created opportunities to foster young Japanese artists at home and lift them up to become well-known contemporary artists. He has realized this goal in his own extensive curatorial efforts, the creation of his own art fair, and the opening of his own factory, where apprentices work to fabricate his pieces and gain experience.
Takashi Murakami | Art by Kat Sampson
“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.”
Murakami pioneered the concept of the “superflat” to describe Japanese contemporary art, post-war society, and his own style. He argues that Japanese culture has always prioritized two-dimensionality, whether in ancient painting, Nihonga, or anime and manga. Unlike the Western tradition of perspective and realism, Japanese artists have always tended towards this flattened form of creation. It also refers to the post-war Japanese cultural phenomenon of “flattening” the distinctions between high and low culture, and to Murakami’s own distinctive blend of influences. He has truly succeeded in making Japan one of the most critical players in the contemporary art world and pushing at the arbitrary cultural barriers still in place in much of the Western world.
In collaboration with Kat Sampson, we present The Not Just Dead White Guys coloring book with 24 vibrant portraits, showcasing diverse artists, both deceased and living. Half are contemporary artists, including Takashi Murakami who are shaping the art scene today, while the others are important historical figures. Join us to celebrate their diverse contributions and create a more inclusive art world!
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