Takashi Murakami is a Japanese artist known for his contemporary art. He works in sculpture and painting as well as the commercial arts of animation, fashion, and merchandise. He is known for his graphic patterns, bold colors and works in an anime manga style. Murakami is sometimes referred to as the “Warhol of Japan.” He has collaborated with well-known fashion brands such as Louis Vitton.
Takashi Murakami was born and raised in Toyko, Japan in 1962. He attended the Tokyo University of the Arts (T.U.A.) and concentrated in Nihonga, a traditional Japanese painting style. Murakami originally wanted to major in animation, as he is a long-time anime and comic devotee. After earning a Ph.D. in Nihonga, Murakami eventually moved away from this traditional art form and towards more contemporary disciplines and styles. Murakami finally became dissatisfied with all aspects of the Japanese art world, including the unpredictable art market. He strategized that he would move to New York and make his way in the Western art world, then “re-import” his work back to Japan. The idea being that art favored in the West would have a higher value in Japan.
Many of Murakami’s early works in New York were not particularly well-received, although he was exposed to artists Jeff Koons and Anselm Kiefer. In 2000, Murakami curated an exhibition entitled “Superflat” at the Los Angles Museum of Contemporary Art. At the same time released a theory of the same name. This Superflat theory asserts that the colorful, graphic styles apparent in Japanese anime and manga have long existed in Japanese visual art. Superflat also explains the “flattening” of Japanese culture after World War II, where there became little distinction between “high” and “low” art. Murakami saw this as a major difference between Japanese and Western art. Murakami’s practical approach to this low/high theory is to take elements of “low” art and repackage them as “high” art, then reintroduce them back to the contemporary art market.
In 1996 Murakami started the Hiropon Factory, which was later incorporated as Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. in 2001. This “factory” system is much like Warhol’s, but it also has a long history in the Japanese arts of animation, manga, sculpture and printmaking. Murakami has also had a number of long-standing collaborations, including one with Louis Vitton where his artwork was printed on a selection of handbags. This partnership furthered Murakami’s idea of blurring lines between genres of art, as this project and others like it blurred the line between “high” art and commercialism. Murakami has also collaborated on many other projects with many other artists like popular musicians like Kayne West and Pharrell Williams. These projects include directing music videos and interactive art exhibitions.
Takashi Murakami’s art is considered to be some of the most desirable and valuable contemporary art in the world. Time Magazine named him one of the “100 Most Influential People” in 2008. He was the only visual artist included. His art encompasses many disciplines, including large-scale sculpture, textiles, paintings, and animation. His most recent exhibit is entitled “Takashi Murakami: The 500 Arhats”, and is on display at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan.