Episode #6 of the course “Ground-breaking contemporary artists”
Takashi Murakami is an influential Japanese visual artist whose work crosses media and obscures the boundaries between “high” and “low” art. Murakami has produced sculptures, music videos, paintings, and a number of commercial products that are on sale throughout Asia, Europe, and the US. His iconic figure, Mr. Dobb, has become known around the world and graces a line of commercial products, as well as the halls of some of the world’s most famous art museums.
Influenced by traditional Japanese art, Murakami’s long-time love of comics, anime, and manga (Japanese comics) inspired him to combine them all into something uniquely 21st century and multi-cultural. His use of bright, saturated colors recalls “hippie” and pop art.
Army of Mushrooms
Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, Japan, and grew up noticing the influence of post-WWII recovery on Japanese society. As a young man, he was fascinated with anime and originally sought to become an animator. However, once at the Tokyo University of the Arts, he began studying traditional Japanese art. He completed his Masters and PhD but became disillusioned with the rigors of the art world. His early works were seen as satire and were not well-received.
During the 1990s, Murakami combined these low and high arts and gained notoriety. His style has become known as “superflat,” coined by Murakami, which he believes describes both the mindset of post-war Japan and the aesthetics of his art. Murakami works with repetitive patterns, a hyper-saturated color palette, and sexualized cartoon characters.
Some of his most well-known works include a life-sized statue, My Lonesome Cowboy (1998), a line of handbags for Louis Vuitton, and the cover artwork for Graduation, an album by Kanye West. He often works with other artists and was the only visual artist to be listed as one of the world’s most influential figures in 2008.
My Lonesome Cowboy
“We want to see the newest things. That is because we want to see the future, even if only momentarily. It is the moment in which, even if we don’t completely understand what we have glimpsed, we are nonetheless touched by it. This is what we have come to call art.”
“I would like to live to 120, because conceptually, people can survive to 120. Every 20 years, it changes. So maybe, in the next 20 years people can go to space. I don’t know what the next revolution will be. I want to watch.”
“Rather than a big figure, I guess you could say I’m more of an influential minority symbol.”
“In Japan, I am famous in certain special circles – mainly as someone who is trying to break down and enlighten the conventions of Japanese art.”
“My aesthetic sense was formed at a young age by what surrounded me: the narrow residential spaces of Japan and the mental escapes from those spaces that took the forms of manga and anime.”
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