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Artists Takashi Murakami
Takashi Murakami Photo

Takashi Murakami

Japanese Painter, Sculptor, Installation artist, Curator, Art Critic, and Cultural Entrepreneur

Movements and Styles: Superflat, Neo Pop Art

Born: February 1, 1962 - Tokyo, Japan

Takashi Murakami Timeline

Quotes

"The desire to understand even a part of the deep cultural forest of anime is to me, perhaps surprisingly, as pure and creative a motivation as the artistic drive to capture the beauty of a landscape or a nude with the rough tools of art."
Takashi Murakami
"Pop culture was born in the U.K. and U.S, it 'popped up', amidst the prosperity of these 'winners' (of WWII). We Japanese are the losers. We were completely flattened, and have never been able to 'pop up' since. The cheerful colors of my works may evoke Pop, but the backdrop of their emergence is completely different from Western Pop."
Takashi Murakami
"'Identity' is something that one has to find for oneself. The 'identity' of a country must be obtained through deep analyses carried out by the people themselves, regarding the culture that is well rooted in its soil. We have to start probe these roots, to dig down to those depths. But Japanese people today do not dare to do this and do not know how to go about it... It is because of this frustration that I invented the notion of 'Superflat'."
Takashi Murakami
"Contemporary art in Japan is like American football in Europe - nobody is interested in it... But they know that Japanese contemporary art is greatly appreciated in the West, particularly in the countries with most culture. Japanese people demonstrate their interest on this point alone. I would really like to show my compatriots that there is profound meaning in today's art, that it is an extremely rich intellectual experience."
Takashi Murakami
"What I am doing is translating for both sides: on one side, I am trying to show my compatriots what 'art' means on a global scale, and on the other, to the foreigners, I am trying to show the essence of our current culture."
Takashi Murakami
"I felt that I had to understand the relationship between Japan and the U.S. The reason being that growing up swimming in images of the Vietnam War and Would War II on television, I felt confronted by the question: 'the contradictions in this world are a reality, but if we flip them around, perhaps they can become functional?'"
Takashi Murakami
"In Japan, the line (between high and low) is less defined, both by the culture and by the post-war economic situation. Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of "high art." In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that's okay - I'm ready with my hard hat."
Takashi Murakami

"Art and commerce are one."

Takashi Murakami Signature

Synopsis

Known for his brightly colored and maniacally cheerful works, Takashi Murakami's astronomical rise to fame in the contemporary art world has been met with equal parts celebration and criticism. Murakami merges Japanese pop culture referents with the country's rich artistic legacy, effectively obliterating any distinction between commodity and high art. He is compared to Andy Warhol for his art-as-business approach, as well as for his large factories of workers who produce, market, and sell his art. His critics have derided him as a sell-out, and as playing into the art market's increasing demands for easily consumable and exotic art from Japan. But for Murakami, this is a compliment and precisely what he intends. His work draws inspiration from the Japanese subculture of otaku, which is replete with strange perversions of cuteness and innocence, as well as incredible violence. Through this, Murakami crafts a subtle critique of Japan's contemporary culture as well as the West's intruding influence upon it.

Key Ideas

Sculptures of anime-inspired characters with voluptuous breasts shooting out streams of milk like a jet-stream, overly cheerful cartoon characters with razor sharp teeth, and sickeningly cute paintings of smiling daisies are all stylistically and thematically based on Murakami's early engagement with the Japanese subculture of otaku - a large group of fanatical geeks obsessed with the fantasy worlds depicted in anime (animated cartoons) and manga (comic books), and the concept of kawaii (all things "cute"). In his youth, Murakami immersed himself in this world, and as an artist he began to draw stylistic inspiration from it and presents to viewers from a cynical and distanced stance.
Out of defiance for the Western-dominated art world, Murakami created his own movement called Superflat. The name refers both to the flattened compositions that lacked one point perspective of historical Japanese artistic movements such as Nihonga, as well as to the flattening (or merging) of art and commerce. Superflat is Murakami's way of bringing together Japan's history with contemporary pop culture. Its bright and easy eye-candy aesthetic immediately lured a wide audience to Murakami's work. However, critics have derided Superflat as a blatant caricature and distortion of modern Japan. Regardless, Superflat has inspired an entire generation of contemporary Japanese art.
Taking cue from Andy Warhol's factory, Murakami developed a new form of Pop art, aptly titled Neo-Pop, in which the line between pop culture and high art was not simply blurred, but rather, completely obliterated. Murakami's Neo-Pop parodies postwar Japanese consumer culture by "sampling" and "remixing" its themes and characters within the realm of high art. Murakami's factories produce fine art that sells for millions of dollars alongside cheap trinkets that sell for just a few dollars. In this respect, Murakami shatters the illusion of elitism and superiority of the art world, while simultaneously benefitting from it economically. His collaboration with Louis Vuitton further destroyed the line between art and commerce, while the wide availability of his trinkets enable anyone to own a Murakami piece.
Murakami's work must be understood as deeply critical to Western intervention. He was raised by parents who experienced the devastating nuclear bombings in a Japan that then faced heavy sanctions and a permanent U.S. military presence. His Japanese writings differ wildly from his essays written in English, and in them, he betrays a deep cynicism towards the West, and towards the global art market. Murakami considers Japan's contemporary obsession with cuteness, youthful innocence, fetish, and violence to be the product of U.S. intervention that began with the bomb. Many believe that Murakami considers his thrusting of this culture onto the U.S. through his elevation of it as high art as a form of revenge.

Biography

Takashi Murakami Photo

Childhood

Takashi Murakami was born in 1962. Murakami's father was a taxi driver, and his mother was a homemaker. His mother, who studied needlepoint and designed textiles, had a tremendous influence on Murakami's interest in the arts. His parents often had him write reviews on exhibitions he had seen. If he refused, he was forced to go to bed without dinner. Raised in such a highly competitive environment, Murakami learned how to think and write quickly. These skills partly inform his later fame as an acerbic art critic.

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Takashi Murakami Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Takashi Murakami
Interactive chart with Takashi Murakami's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Katsushika Hokusai
Hishida Shunso
Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Roy LichtensteinRoy Lichtenstein
Keith HaringKeith Haring

Personal Contacts

Yoshimoto Nara
Masato Nakamura
Min Nishihara
Makoto Aida
Midori Matsui

Movements

Nihonga - Classical Japanese PaintingNihonga - Classical Japanese Painting
Ukiyo-e Japanese Woodblock PrintsUkiyo-e Japanese Woodblock Prints
Pop ArtPop Art

Influences on Artist
Takashi Murakami
Takashi Murakami
Years Worked: 1991 - Current
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Aya TakanoAya Takano
Chiho Aoshima
Mahomi Kunikata
Chinatsu Ban
Akane Koide

Personal Contacts

Movements

SuperflatSuperflat
Neo Pop ArtNeo Pop Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Jiete Li

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Allison Harbin

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jiete Li
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Allison Harbin
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