A lightning rod between different cultural valences (high/low, ancient/modern, oriental/occidental), Takashi Murakami has stated that the artist is someone who understands the borders between worlds and who makes an effort to know them. With his distinctive “Superflat” style and ethos, which employs highly refined classical Japanese painting techniques to depict a super-charged mix of Pop, animé and otaku content within a flattened representational picture-plane, he moves freely within an ever-expanding field of aesthetic issues and cultural inspirations. Parallel to utopian and dystopian themes, he recollects and revitalizes narratives of transcendence and enlightenment, often involving outsider-savants. Mining religious and secular subjects favored by the so-called Japanese "eccentrics" or non-conformist artists of the Early Modern era commonly considered to be counterparts of the Western Romantic tradition, Murakami situates himself within their legacy of bold and lively individualism in a manner that is entirely his own and of his time.
Murakami is also a curator, a cultural entrepreneur, and a critical observer of contemporary Japanese society. In 2000, he organized a paradigmatic exhibition of Japanese art titled “Superflat,” which traced the origins of contemporary Japanese visual pop culture in historical Japanese art. He has continued this work in subsequent impactful exhibitions such as “Coloriage,” (Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, (2002); and “Little Boy: The Art of Japan's Exploding Subcultures,” Japan Society, New York (2005). In 2011, he organized the "New Day: Artists for Japan" international charity auction at Christie’s New York in response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
Takashi Murakami is unquestionably the most famous artist in the world of Japanese contemporary art. He owes much of his success to hard work and a lack of sleep. “If I relax for more than six hours, I feel like I’m being extremely lazy and I have to get back to work. I can’t really relax,” he told us. The relentless output of new works, sculptures, and exhibitions crafted by himself and his global team of 300 Kaikai Kiki Gallery assistants is driven by one simple dread: “I fear that people will get bored of me,” he said.
We shadowed Murakami for three consecutive days prior to his massive “HEADS⟷HEADS” exhibition at New York City’s Galerie Perrotin. From observing the unreal synchronization of workers at his L.I.C. studio to encountering crazed fans at his meet-and-greet for the Uniqlo UT Doraemon collaboration, we offer viewers a rare look at the artist responsible for the limelight.
Video Credit: HYPEBEAST
In his New York City studio, Takashi Murakami discusses his three-decades-long practice in which he blends traditional and modern art techniques to create enormous paintings with a visual power unmatched in contemporary art.
Murakami talks about his position as an outsider in the Western contemporary art world and his interest in breaking down the boundaries between art and popular culture through collaborations with Kanye West, Louis Vuitton, and Complex. Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, is also featured in the video and discusses Murakami's history and accomplishments. They each delve into the origins of Murakami's iconic Mr. DOB, as well as his influences, including Star Wars, natural disasters, and fashion branding.
Video Produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 2017