Takashi Murakami – Esther Wong

Takashi Murakami
Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami is a Japanese contemporary artist born in 1962, founder of Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd., works in both fine arts media and commercial media. He is one of the most innovative and influential  Japanese artists today, known for merging traditional Japanese art styles with Western art influences, cultures that are frequently considered in opposition, and blurring the boundaries between fine art and commercial art.

Murakami received his  BA, MFA, and PhD from Tokyo University of the Arts, his PhD in nihonga painting became the basis of his artwork. His huge interest in manga and animation ⏤ the Otaku subculture, was the inspiration of his aesthetic sense. He created the term “Superflat”, which he described as a concept he came up with “by overlaying the painting style of creating a completely flat surface with the cultural predicament of post-war Japan.” This term explains the background and production of his art, also became a postmodern movement. In 2000 Murakami curated an exhibition titled Superflat, which featured works by artists whose techniques and mediums incorporate different aspects of Japanese visual culture, from ukiyo-e to anime and kawaii (Japanese cute culture). He advanced and introduced his Superflat theory with this exhibition, highlighting the absence of perspective, the two-dimensionality in Japanese visual culture, from traditional art to contemporary subcultures in the context of post-war Japan, transported the tough realities⏤horrors of World War II and its aftermath into the realm of cartoon fantasy. Painful truths were stripped of their historical context in childlike animated forms, which reflects the flattening process, and Murakami’s feelings of cynicism towards the influx of consumerism and embrace of western culture, caused by the success of Japan’s conquerors, defiling Japan’s honour. The Japanese society had lost its part of identity, aspects of its culture and its complexity; thus becoming flat and superficial. Murakami’s Superflat movement encouraged Japanese artists to mock the Japanese consumerism and remind the country the importance of its individuality. He inspired artists to combine elements of American pop art and Okatu culture, it was a beneficial way to express their feelings and views.

Murakami successfully created a style of his own. His style is instantly recognizable from his anime-esque aesthetic. Using flat/glossy surfaces, incorporating motifs from Japanese traditional art and pop art culture, Otaku imagery and candy-like colours. He extends his work to mass-produced items, including prints, sculptures, animated videos, limited edition dolls, t-shirts, chocolates, gum, keychains, etc. all manufactured from Kaikai Kiki, his own factory.

Murakami not only expands on integrating fine art and pop culture into one flat plane, he is able to appropriate contemporary globalized visual culture, and explored the new possibilities of manufacturing to create a incorporate commercial, popular images into well-executed pieces of fine art, thus he is considered the heir to Warhol.  His art also defines traditional Japanese identity from modernity, allows us to learn about Japanese history.


Work Cited

Lubow, Arthur. “The Murakami Method.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Apr. 2005, www.nytimes.com/2005/04/03/magazine/the-murakami-method.html.

Murakami, Takashi. “Manga, Goya and ‘Star Wars’: The Unexpected Influences That Made Takashi Murakami the Artist He Is Today.” CNN, Cable News Network, 29 July 2019, www.cnn.com/style/article/takashi-murakami-identity/index.html.

“Superflat: The Aesthetic Reaction to Post-War Japan.” The Artifice, the-artifice.com/superflat-japan/.

“Takashi MURAKAMI – Artist.” Perrotin, www.perrotin.com/artists/Takashi_Murakami/12#biography.

“Takashi Murakami – Bio: The Broad.” Bio | The Broad, www.thebroad.org/art/takashi-murakami.

“Takashi Murakami.” Gagosian, 12 Apr. 2018, gagosian.com/artists/takashi-murakami/.




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