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Takashi Murakami: The Warhol of Japan


Merging the Japanese pop culture referents with rich historical Japanese art and thus blurring the boundary between fine and commercial art, the Japanese contemporary artist, Takashi Murakami, is acclaimed for his contemporary Pop synthesis of fine art and popular culture, particularly his use of a boldly graphic and colorful anime and manga cartoon style.

One of the biggest name in the contemporary art world, Murakami was born on February 1, 1962, in Tokyo, Japan. In 1980, he enrolled in the nihonga (a traditional Japanese painting style that draws on elements of Western art) department of the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he received his B.F.A. in 1986, M.F.A. in 1988, and Ph.D. in 1993. He also learned animation production outside of school and continued his knowledge of the contemporary art world through visiting exhibitions and his school’s visiting artist program.

Murakami’s early works reflect the realities with which he had grown up, exploring the complex post-WWII relationship between Japan and the U.S. For example, “Polyrhythm” (1991), which uses plastic WWII toy soldiers, and “Sea Breeze” (1992), which refers to the atomic bomb. In 1994, he traveled to New York City to participate in P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center’s International Studio Program on a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council.

In 1996, Murakami was included in a group exhibition at the gallery Feature. This exhibition marks the beginning of his international acclaim and fame. He founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki, an art production and art management corporation. In addition to the production and marketing of Murakami’s art and related work, Kaikai Kiki functions as a supportive environment for the fostering of emerging artists.

Murakami became famous in the 1990s for his “Superflat” theory and for organizing the paradigmatic exhibition of that title, which linked the origins of contemporary Japanese visual culture to historical Japanese art. He is often categorized alongside historic and contemporary artists working in the tradition of Pop Art, such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons. His work has achieved a widespread level of fame beyond the art world.

Exploring the links between traditional printmaking techniques and Japanese manga in postwar society, Murakami’s art acts as a cultural barometer with subversive undertones and imagery. With his popular collaboration with the fashion label Louis Vuitton, Murakami has established himself as a pioneer of promoting art as a brand.

Murakami’s output includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, and animations. His work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions around the world, include those held at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Gagosian Gallery in London, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the Versailles Palace.


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