Famous for his signature flowers and celebrity collaborations, Takashi Murakami is one of the most important Japanese artists working today. In the mid-1990s Murakami coined the term ‘superflat’ to describe the distinctive treatment of space in contemporary Japanese art. He understands all art as two-dimensional and worthy of equal weight, whether music video, cartoon or painting. His complex, anime-inspired sculptures, paintings and prints aim to level the playing field between high and low culture.
Born in 1962, Murakami studied at Tokyo’s National University of Fine Arts and Music. His art is rooted in the history of Japan, and in particular the impact of the atomic bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima. ‘During my childhood, there were a lot of people around me who were damaged by the war and suffered from sicknesses caused by the atomic bomb,’ he explains. His art’s pictorial flattening relates to this devastation, and to the conceptual levelling of postmodern pop culture.
Murakami creates supercharged, cartoonish pictures using refined classical Japanese painting techniques. His motifs range from religious iconography and ancient woodcuts to commercial graphic design. The results are psychedelic and eccentric. Figurines and paintings depict goggle-eyed rabbits and smiling flowers. Installations featuring his famous avatar, Mr Dob, are childish paradises of kitsch delight. He has partnered with mega-brands such as Louis Vuitton, and made album art, music videos and clothing with Kanye West and Billie Eilish.
In 1996 Murakami founded the Hiropon Factory in Tokyo, inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory. Now called Kaikai Kiki, it is a corporation that manufactures and distributes Murakami’s art. The establishment also fosters the work of other Japanese artists, including MADSAKI, Aya Takano and Murakami’s protegé MR.
Homage to Francis Bacon (Study for Head of George Dyer (On Light Ground))