Takashi Murakami Biography



Artist and designer

Born in 1962, in Tokyo, Japan. Education: Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, B.F.A., 1986; M.F.A., 1988; Ph.D., 1993.

Addresses:

Office —Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd., Marunuma Geijutsuno–mori, 493 Kamiuchimagi, Asaka–shi, Saitama, Japan.

Career

Received training in the classic Japanese art form nihonga, 1980s; taught drawing, 1990s; embarked on solo career; exhibited in hundreds of galleries across the world, including the Serpentine Gallery in London, the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art; worked as a guest professor in the New Genre curriculum of the UCLA art department, 1998; designed line of Louis Vuitton handbags, 2003.

Awards:

Received Japan Fashion Editors Club Awards for his Louis Vuitton bag designs, 2003.

Sidelights

Japanese–born artist Takashi Murakami has become an international phenomenon by blurring the line between fine art and pop art. His edgy–yet–stunning, creepy–yet–cute cartoon–type characters appeal to a large audience and he deliberately makes his artwork accessible to all. Murakami's paintings sell in galleries for more than $250,000

Takashi Murakami
and a sculpture of his fetched $1.5 million. He has also designed bags for Louis Vuitton, which sold for $4,500. Murakami's work, however, is also available on affordable coffee mugs, key chains, and stuffed animals. Because he believes artwork is more about creating goods to sell than about exhibitions, Murakami struggles to be taken seriously in some circles, although art curator Douglas Fogle called him "the most influential artist to come out of Japan in the last 15 years," according to Peter Marks of the New York Times.

Born in Tokyo in 1962, Murakami was raised in a family of art–lovers and artists. He has a younger brother who is also a painter. Growing up, Murakami had plenty of Western influences. His father worked at a U.S. naval base and Murakami also came of age during a time when Japanese society was filled with an ample supply of American pop culture, from rock music to films.

Inspired by a Japanese comic–book style called Manga, Murakami dreamed of becoming an animation artist but believed his drawing skills were not up to par. Hoping to improve his technique, Murakami entered the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in the 1980s. There, he studied a customary Japanese art form called nihonga. Nihonga, which dates to the late 19th century, is a style of Japanese painting that fuses both Western and Eastern art by mixing traditional Japanese subject matter with European–influenced painting techniques. Murakami earned his bachelor's degree in fine arts in 1986 and his doctorate in 1993.

In the early 1990s, Murakami taught drawing and continued painting but became disillusioned with his conventional nihonga training, believing the art form no longer appealed to the average Japanese person. Murakami wanted to make a lasting impact, so he began experimenting to find his own style. In a 2001 retrospective on his work, reprinted in Wired, Murakami expressed his thoughts this way: "I set out to investigate the secret of market survivability—the universality of characters such as Mickey Mouse, Sonic the Hedgehog, Doraemon, Miffy, Hello Kitty, and their knock–offs, produced in Hong Kong."

The results have been stunning. Most of Murakami's pieces contain often smirky, sometimes psychedelic, doe–eyed childlike characters rendered in dazzling, dripping Technicolor. He has a talent for creating art that is disturbing and beautiful at the same time. Though unconventional, Murakami's crazy–eyed creatures have found a place in the museum–centered art world. His signature character is a peevish Mickey Mouse lookalike called Mr. DOB, whose sculpture was sold for $1.5 million.

Not only is Murakami's style unconventional but so are his work habits. Computers play a key role in Murakami's creations, which are churned out at the Hiropon Factory, located just outside Tokyo in Saitama, Japan. A second art factory is located in New York. Murakami's art factory works like this: When Murakami has an idea, he sketches the design on paper and scans it into a computer. From there, Murakami fires up Adobe Illustrator and manipulates the piece. Murakami's artwork includes a number of recurring themes, like eyeballs, mushrooms and flowers. He keeps a digital clip–art file of these images and can simply cut and paste them into place on the computer screen. Next, he puts the colors into the file. An assistant takes over from here. The work is printed and the outlines of the images are silk–screened onto a canvas. At this point, Murakami becomes the supervisor. He watches over the piece as assistants paint on the 70 to 800 colors that make up a typical Murakami original. He may make color corrections, but seldom picks up a brush. Assistants paint on endless layers of acrylics to produce that remarkably shiny, signature sheen of a Murakami original. Some pieces take two months to produce; others take two years.

To describe his artwork, Murakami has coined the term "superflat," an acknowledgement of his style that lacks depth and perception. He believes it also reflects our technologically flat world of PDAs, flatscreen televisions, and digital billboards. The term also relates to the flattening out of boundaries in the art world.

Murakami's biggest break came when he was commissioned to create Louis Vuitton handbags. He replaced the traditional brown and gold colors with jellybean–colored logos. The bags sold for up to $4,500 apiece, though he was criticized for his commercialism.

Even though famous galleries around the world are showing his work, Murakami still battles to be taken seriously in some realms. London Guardian art critic Adrian Searle put it this way, according to Newsday writer Ariella Budick: "I recoil from its cuteness, and the sly, self–conscious and hyper–sophisticated cartoony artiness of what he does. Perhaps you need to be Japanese and addicted to Manga comics to get this stuff, or under 10 years old, or the kind of adult who likes to wear nappies, in which case this show would be an ideal environment to hang about in, sporting leaky Pampers."

Murakami, however, shrugs off such criticism. "I don't make my art intentionally childish just so I can appeal to children," he told Newsday. "Colorfulness, cuteness, simplicity—that's my aesthetic. I take those elements very seriously."

Demand for Murakami's work continues with respectable art houses handing him solo exhibitions, including the Serpentine Gallery in London, the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art. In September of 2003, his artwork overtook New York City's Rockefeller Plaza in the form of a 30–foot–tall fiberglass sculpture of his best–known cartoonish creature, Mr. Pointy, in a show called Reversed Double Helix.

While some criticize Murakami for his marketing, he makes no apologies and intends to go on creating for the masses until he dies. "I am looking for the crossing point between fine art and entertainment," Murakami told Marks in the New York Times. "I have learned in Europe and America the way of the fine–art scene. Few people come to museums. Much bigger are movie theaters. The museum, that space is kind of old–style media, like opera. That's why I am really interested in making merchandise for ordinary people."

Selected solo exhibitions

Café Tiens!, Tokyo, Japan, 1989.

Gallery Ginza Surugadai, Tokyo, Japan, 1989.

Art Gallery at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Tokyo, Japan, 1991.

Aoi Gallery, Osaka, Japan, 1991.

One Night Exhibition 8.23, Rontgen Kunst Institut, Tokyo, Japan, 1991.

Gallery Aires, Tokyo, Japan, 1991.

I Am Against Being For It, Gallery Hosomi Contemporary, Tokyo, Japan, 1991.

Wild, Wild, Rontgen Kunst Institut, Tokyo, Japan, 1992.

Nasubi Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

A Very Merry Unbirthday!, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan, 1993.

A Romantic Evening, Gallery Cellar, Nagoya, Japan, 1993.

Fujisan, Gallery Koto, Okayama, Japan, 1994.

Which is Tomorrow?—Fall in Love, SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan, 1994.

Azami, Kikyou, Ominaeshi, Aoi Gallery, Osaka, Japan, 1994.

Mr. Doomsday Balloon, Yngtingagatan 1, Stockholm, Sweden, 1995.

Crazy Z, SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan, 1995.

Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France, 1995.

NIJI, Gallery Koto, Okayama, Japan, 1995.

A Very Merry Unbirthday, To You, To Me! Ginza Komatsu, Tokyo, Japan, 1996.

727, Aoi Gallery, Osaka, Japan, 1996.

Konnichiwa, Mr. DOB, Kirin Art Plaza, Osaka, Japan, 1996.

727, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1996.

Gallery Koto, Okayama, Japan, 1996.

Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York, New York, 1996.

Feature Inc., New York, New York, 1996.

Blum & Poe, Santa Monica, California, 1997.

Gallery KOTO, Okayama, Japan, 1997.

Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France, 1997.

New York State University at Buffalo, New York, 1997.

Moreover, DOB Raise His Hand, Sagacho bis, Tokyo, Japan, 1998.

Back Beat: Superflat, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1998.

Back Beat, Blum & Poe, Santa Monica, California, 1998.

Hiropon Project KoKo_Pity Sakurako Jet Airplane Nos. 1–6, Feature Inc., New York, New York, 1998.

The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Bard College, New York, New York, 1999.

Love & DOB, Gallery KOTO, Okayama, Japan, 1999.

Superflat, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, New York, 1999.

DOB's Adventures in Wonderland, Parco Department Store Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1999.

Second Mission Project Ko2, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York, 2000.

KaiKai Kiki: Superflat, ISSEY MIYAKE MEN, Tokyo, Japan, 2000.

727, Blum & Poe, Santa Monica, California, 2000.

Summon monsters? Open the Door? Heal? Or Die? Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan, 2001.

Made in Japan, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Massachusetts, 2001.

Wink, Grand Central Station, New York, New York, 2001.

Mushroom, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, New York, 2001.

KaiKai Kiki, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France, 2001.

Kaikai Kiki: Takashi Murakami, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, France, 2002.

Reversed Double Helix, Rockefeller Center, New York, New York, 2003.

Superflat Monogram, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, New York, 2003.

Selected group exhibitions

Graduation Exhibition, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts, Tokyo, Japan, 1988.

Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 1988.

Jan Hoet in Tsurugi, Tsurugi–cho, Ishikawa, Japan, 1991.

Jan Hoet's Vision, Art Gallery Artium, Fukuoka, Japan, 1991.

Nakamura and Murakami, Metaria Square Hotel Osaka, Japan, 1992.

Artist's Shop '92, Sai Gallery, Osaka, Japan, 1992.

Mars Gallery, Tokyo, 1992.

Floating Gallery Vol. 1, Tsukishima Warehouse, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

1st Transart Annual Painting/Crossing, Bellini Hill Gallery, Yokohama, Japan, 1993.

Nakamura and Murakami, Space Ozone, Seoul, Korea, 1993.

Nakamura and Murakami, SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

Anomaly, Rontgen Kunst Institut, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

Tama Vivant '92, Seed Hall, Shibuya Seibu, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

Malaria Art Show, Vol.1, February 1st Festival, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

Artist's Shop '93, Sai Gallery, Osaka, Japan, 1993.

The Ginburart, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

00 Collaboration, Sagacho Exhibit Space, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

Art Today '93, Neo–Japanology, Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan, 1993.

Beyond Nihonga: An Aspect of Contemporary Japanese Paintings, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 1993.

The Exhibition for Exhibitions, Kyoto Shijo Gallery Kyoto, Japan, 1993.

Shinjuku Syonen Art, Shinjuku Kabukicho, Tokyo, Japan, 1994.

Lest We Forget: On Nostalgia, The Gallery at Takashimaya, New York

VOCA '94, The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 1994.

The Youthful Time of Japanese Nihonga Artists from Taikan and Shunso to DOB, Koriyama City Museum of Art, Fukushima, Japan, 1994.

Open Air '94, Out of bounds, Benesse House Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, Kagawa, Japan, 1994.

Artists in Yokohama '94, Yokohama Citizens' Gallery, Kanagawa, Japan, 1994.

Incidental Alterations: PS1 Studio Artists 1994–95, The Angel Orensanz Foundation, New York, New York, 1995.

Blind Beach, Art Space Hap, Hiroshima, Japan, 1995.

Transculture, 46th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 1995.

Japan Today, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark, 1995.

Kunsternes Hus, Oslo, Norway, 1995.

Liljevalchs Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden, 1995.

Waino Aalonoen Museum of Art, Truku, Finland, 1995.

Cutting Up, Max Protech Gallery, New York, New York, 1995.

Transculture, Benesse House, Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, Kagawa, Japan, 1995.

Romper Room, Thread Waxing Space, New York, New York, 1996.

Tokyo Pop, The Hiratsuka Museum of Art, Kanagawa, Japan, 1996.

Ironic Fantasy, The Miyagi Museum of Art, Sedai, Japan, 1996.

The 39th Annual Yasui Prize Exhibition, Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan, 1996.

Sharaku Interpreted by Japan's Contemporary Artists, The Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo, Japan, 1996.

Asia–Pacific Triennial 1996, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1996.

The 33rd 'Artists Today' Exhibition: Singularity in Plurality, Yokohama Citizens' Gallery, Kanagawa, Japan, 1997.

Japan today kunst Photograph Design, MAK—Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria, 1997.

Need for Speed, Grazer Kunstverein, Graz, Austria, 1997.

Hiropon Show '97, Shop 33, Tokyo, Japan, 1997.

The Future of Cities, Weiner Secession, Vienna, Austria, 1997.

Flying Buttress Please, Torch Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1997.

Super Body, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1997.

Ero Pop Tokyo, George's, Los Angeles, California, 1998.

Tastes and Pursuits: Japanese Art in the 1990s, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India, 1998.

Abstract Painting, Once Removed, Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, Texas, 1998.

Ero Pop Christmas, NADiff, Tokyo, Japan, 1998.

50 Years of Japanese Lifestyle Postwar Fashion & Design, Ustunomiya Museum of Art, Ibaraki, Japan, 1998.

Biennale d'art Contemporain de Noumea, Noumea, New Caledonia, 1998.

The Manga Age, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan, 1998.

Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan, 1998.

Donaiyanen! Et maintenant!: la creation contemporaine au Japon, Ecole nationale superieure des beaux–arts, Paris, France, 1998.

Art is Fun 9: Hand Craft and Time Craft, Hara Museum Arc, Gunma, Japan, 1998.

Pop Surrealism, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut, 1998.

People, Places, Things, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, New York, 1998.

Fluffy, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina Canada, 1998. Contemporarin de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, 1998.

PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, New York, 1998.

Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark, 1998.

Hayword Gallery, London, England, 1998.

Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki, Finland, 1998.

Lego Deluxe–Leg Exhibition, Shibuya Parco, Tokyo, Japan, 1999.

Ground Zero Japan, Contemporary Art Center, Ibaraki, Japan, 1999.

The Carnegie International 1999/2000, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1999.

Balloon Art Festival, Shizuoko Prefectural Convention & Art Center, Shizuoka, Japan, 1999.

Pleasure Dome, Jessica Fredericks Gallery, New York, New York, 1999.

New Modernism for a New Millennium: Works by Contemporary Asian Artists from the Logan Collection, SFMOMA, San Francisco, California, 1999.

Color Me Blind! Painting in times of comics and computer games, Wüttembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany, 1999.

Abstract Painting Once Removed, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas, 1999.

Painting for Joy: New Japanese Painting in the 1990s,

The Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo, Japan, 1999.

Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, New York, 2000.

The Darker Side of Playland: Childhood Imagery from the Logan Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, 2000.

After Dreams, Kunsthalle Baden–Baden, Baden–Baden, Switzerland, 2000.

Yume no Ato: Was vom Traum blieb Zeitgenossische Kunst aus Japan, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, Germany, 2000.

Gendai, Center for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland, 2000.

Twisted: Urban and Visionary Landscapes in Contemporary Painting, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 2000.

Pleasure Zone, Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland, 2000.

00, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, New York, 2000.

Urban and Visionary Landscapes in Contemporary Painting, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 2000.

Balls, James Cohan Gallery, New York, 2000.

Almost Warm and Fuzzy, Des Moines Art Center, Iowa, 2000.

Superflat, Parco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2000.

Let's Entertain, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

5e Biennale d'Art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, France, 2000.

Continental Shift, Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany, 2000.

One Heart, One World, United Nations, New York, New York, 2000.

Form Follows Fiction, Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Italy, 2001.

Murakami/Nara, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2001.

Un art populaire, Foundation Cariter pour l'art contemporain, Paris, France, 2001.

Casino 2001, 1st Quadrennial of Contemporary Art, Stedelijk Museum Voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium, 2001.

Beau Monde: Toward A Redeemed Cosmopolitanism, Site Santa Fe Fourth International Biennial, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2001.

Public Offerings, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California, 2001.

Painting at the Edge of the World, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2001.

My Reality: The Culture of Anime, Des Moines Art Center, Iowa, 2001.

Super Flat, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California, 2001.

Almost Warm and Fuzzy: Childhood and Contemporary Art, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York, 2001.

Under Pressure, Swiss Institute, New York, New York, 2001.

Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 2002.

POPJack: Warhol to Murakami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Colorado, 2002.

The Uncanny, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 2002.

Reality Check: Painting in the Exploded Field, CCAC Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, California, 2002.

Chiho Aoshima, Mr. Takashi Murakami, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France, 2002.

Out of the Box: 20th–Century Print Portfolios, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2002.

Selected curated exhibitions

Mr. Solo Exhibition: Frone & Perrine, Shop 33, Tokyo, Japan, 1996.

Pico 2 Show, Saga–cho bis, Tokyo, Japan, 1996.

Aya Takano Solo Exhibition: God is Coming, Shop 33, Tokyo, Japan, 1997.

Hiropon Show, Kanazawa College of Arts Manken Gallery, Ishikawa, Japan, 1997.

Hiropon Show, Iwataya Z–SIDE W&LT, Fukuoka, Tokyo, 1997.

Tokyo Sex, NAS Tokyo, Japan, 1997.

Hiropon Show, Shop 33, Tokyo, Japan, 1997.

Mr. Solo Exhibition: Oh–Edo Kunoichi Ninpocho, Shop 33, Tokyo, Japan, 1998.

Ero Pop Tokyo, George's, Los Angeles, California, 1998.

Hiropon 32.80, NADiff, Tokyo, Japan, 1999.

Hiropon Show, Parco Gallery, Nagoya, Japan, 1999.

Tokyo Girls Bravo, George's, Los Angeles, California, 1999.

Tokyo Girls Bravo, NADiff, Tokyo, Japan, 1999.

Hiropon Show, Parco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1999.

Superflat, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California, 2000.

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2000.

Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, Washington, 2000.

Superflat, Parco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2000.

Aya Takano Solo Exhibition: Hot Banana Fudge, NADiff, Tokyo, Japan, 2000.

Hiropon Show, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, 2001.

Coloriage, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, France, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

ARTnews, March 2001, pp. 134–37.

Newsday, September 22, 2003, p. B6.

New York Times, July 18, 1999; July 25, 2001, p. E1.

People, September 15, 2003, pp. 75–76.

Wired, November 2003, pp. 180–82.

Online

"Kaikai Kiki Artist Profiles: Takashi Murakami," Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd. Online, http://www.kaikaikiki.co.jp/plofilenew/murakami/index–e.html (October 29, 2003).

"Move Over, Andy Warhol," Time Pacific, http://www.time.com/time/pacific/magazine/20030609/murakami.html (November 19, 2003).

"Takashi Murakami," Marianne Boesky Gallery, http://www.marianneboeskygallery.com/getpdf1505.pdf (October 29, 2003).

Transcripts

Day to Day, National Public Radio, September 15, 2003.

Lisa Frick



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