Japanese artist Takashi Murakami became famous in the 1990s for his “superflat” theory, which blurs the lines between high and low art. Superflat describes the aesthetic characteristics of traditional Japanese art and post-war Japanese culture. Murakami was drawn to Anime and Manga comics from a young age, which would later influence his artistic style. He was also inspired by commercial media, including fashion and animation. He received a Ph.D. in Nihonga from the Tokyo University of the Arts. Nihonga is the traditional style of Japanese painting, though Murakami was more interested in exploring contemporary media, styles and artistic strategies.
Murakami was disappointed in Japanese contemporary art, which he felt was “a deep appropriation of Western trends.” He experimented with performance, “message” and conceptual art before developing his own pop icon, “Mr. DOB,” who would later come to signify the artist himself. In 1994, Murakami found great inspiration in artists as Jeff Koons and Anselm Kiefer while participating in a fellowship at PS1 in New York through the Asian Cultural Council. Upon his return to Japan, Murakami started to develop his own signature style through Superflat, which is the layering of two- dimensional anime images on high-gloss surfaces. He also composed a series of singular anime sculptures that were often crude or satirical in content. One of his sculptures, My Lonesome Cowboy(1998), sold at Sotheby’s for $13.5 million in 2008. In addition to his paintings and sculptures, Murakami has also been invited to collaborate with a variety of artists, including musician Kanye West and fashion designer Marc Jacobs.
In an effort to strengthen Japan’s contemporary art scene, Murakami establishedGEISAI, a bi-annual art fair that allows artists to curate their own booths and speak with clients directly. He also founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996, which later became Kaikai Kiki. Established in 2001, Kaikai Kiki is an art management corporation that fosters emerging artists.
Murakami’swork is featured in the permanent collections of the MCA in Los Angeles, the MFA in Houston, the MFA in Boston, the Harvard University Art Museums in Cambridge, the Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing, the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane and the Rubell Family Collection in Miami.
Related Categories: Large-Scale Sculpture, Contemporary Pop, Comic/Cartoon, Japan, Contemporary Graphic Realism, Popular Culture, The Art Market, Consumerism, Installation, Globalization.