As one of the most well-known and highly respected contemporary artists in the world, Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami's work has been exhibited in some of the most prestigious museums and collections throughout the world.
Whilst you're probably familiar with his signature style, here we details five things which you may not have known about the artist.
He is known for his colorful and whimsical paintings and sculptures.
Born in Tokyo in 1962, Murakami initially studied traditional Japanese painting before turning to more Western-influenced art forms.
He rose to prominence in the late 1990s with his iconic "Superflat" style, combining pop culture elements with traditional Japanese iconography. His paintings and sculptures often feature bright colours and cartoon-like characters. And what often sets Murakami's work apart is his use of traditional Japanese influences combined with modern-day references, such as a juxtaposition of Eastern and Western influences.
For example, his "Flowers & Skulls" painting includes a traditional Japanese flower pattern and skulls, a symbol of death in Western cultures. His paintings are also often relatively large-scale, allowing viewers to appreciate the detail and level of work that goes into each piece.
When it comes to sculptures, Murakami's work is distinct and eye-catching. Perhaps his most famous, record-breaking sculpture, called My Lonesome Cowboy (1988) depicts a young man with large eyes and a wide smile. The work sold for $15.2M at a Sotheby's sale in 2008.
While Murakami's work may appear whimsical at first glance, he often uses it to discuss serious topics such as consumerism and the post-atomic Bomb world.
He often uses pop culture references in his artwork
Murakami's pieces often incorporate elements from anime, manga, and video games, which he uses to explore themes of identity and culture.
And for him, art is about more than just aesthetics; it's about engaging with the world around us. And by using familiar pop culture references, he invites viewers to question their assumptions and rethink their preconceptions.
Since Murakami has also been profoundly influenced by Western pop culture, his work is often infused with elements from both traditions, the result of which is a unique and instantly recognisable style that has come to define his artwork.
Murakami's use of pop culture references has often been compared to the work of Andy Warhol. That's why he was renamed "Warhol of Japan." And like Warhol, Murakami is fascinated by mass-produced objects and images and often appropriates them in his work. However, where Warhol tended to use pop culture icons to comment on the shallowness of consumer culture, Murakami often uses them simply because he likes them. In this respect, his work has often been said to reflect Japanese otaku culture, which values fandom and escapism over critical engagement.
His signature character is called "Mr. DOB."
Murakami's trademark character is Mr. DOB, a cartoonish figure with an oversized head and big eyes. Mr. DOB first appeared in Murakami's paintings in the early 1990s and has since become one of the artist's most recognizable symbols.
Mr. DOB often appears in Murakami's artwork as a sort of everyman character, representing the ordinary person caught up in contemporary society's chaotic and confusing world.
Murakami has said that he created Mr. DOB to explore the concept of good and evil. He has also said that the character represents the duality of human nature.
And while Mr. DOB is described as child-like or innocent, many believe there to also be a hint of menace to his grin. This has led some to interpret him as a symbol of the dark side of contemporary Japanese culture.
Perhaps Mr. DOB symbolises Murakami's journey as an artist as he navigates the often overwhelming landscape of the art world?
Murakami also creates film projects and fashion designs
Murakami has expanded his practice to include film projects and fashion design. His first foray into filmmaking was “Jellyfish Eyes," a 2013 fantasy film that mixed live-action and CGI.
He has also furthered his reputation as a trailblazer in the world of fashion. In collaboration with the late designer Virgil Abloh, Murakami created a line of streetwear that combines his signature style with Abloh's unique vision. The result was a clothing collection that was eye-catching and quintessentially Murakami.
From hoodies emblazoned with his iconic flowers to T-shirts adorned with playful characters, the collection offers a fresh take on Murakami's aesthetic. And more recently, he also collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a line of ready-to-wear and accessories, designing the sets and costumes for Kanye West's "Yeezus" tour.
Murakami has his own art production company
Aside from being a world-renowned contemporary artist, Murakami is also a successful businessman.
In 2001, he founded his own art production company, Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd, which has produced his line of branded merchandise, including t-shirts, keychains, and phone cases.
He has also collaborated with several high-profile brands, including Adidas and Marc Jacobs.
In addition to his commercial success, Murakami has also been praised for his philanthropic work. For example, his collaboration with Supreme in creating a Box Logo Tee has recently raised over $1 Million for families affected by Covid-19.