Takashi Murakami has become one of the most visible and important Japanese artists working today.
Coined ‘the Warhol of Japan’, Murakami is renowned for his ability to blur the lines between fine art and popular culture; ‘I want to make something new – that means a new communication with fine art and subculture, fine art with the music industry and fine art with entertainment.” Combining classical painting techniques with a mix of Japanese animé, Pop art and okatu subject matter in his signature ‘Superflat’ style, Murakami is able to navigate instinctively and freely through the contemporary art world in a way which is undoubtedly unique. His ever-expanding repertoire of mediums includes but is not restricted to – painting, sculpture, drawing and animation.
Takashi Murakami, Flowers, flowers, flowers, 2010
Murakami’s ability to merge Japanese pop culture references with the country’s rich historic artistic legacy have had the effect of obliterating any distinction between commodity and high art.
With high-profile collaborations with brands like Louis Vuitton, Supreme and Vogue, Murakami’s artworks have decisively bridged the gap between the art and commercial worlds – leading to his reputation as a somewhat divisive figure. He states, “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’,” Murakami says. “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, Hands Clasped, 2015
In 2000, Murakami published his ‘Superflat’ theory in a group exhibition catalogue of a show he curated at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The theory, for which Murakami is well known, postulates that there is a legacy of 2-dimensional flat imagery from historic Japanese art which has percolated into modern day anime and manga which challenges western ideals of mark-making. This style is distinct from the western approach due to its emphasis on the surface itself and the exclusive use of flat planes of colour. This ‘Superflat’ theory also comments on the flattened nature of the post-war Japanese society, in which the cultural distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ classes have become negligible.