From September 27 until January 4 the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt will be showing about 130 paintings, sculptures and videos in its retrospective "© Murakami".
Murakami's art is called "New Pop" or "Tokyo Pop", but he uses the term "Superflat", as described in his book The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning (2000). It reflects today’s Japan, its collective trauma of the atomic bomb and a lost World War II, being thrown into post-modernism, consuming American culture and therefore forgetting one’s own dignified tradition.
Murakami studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, received his BFA, MFA and PhD, and invented a figure called "Mr. DOB", which is a crossover of Mickey Mouse and Manga. He collaborated with Louis Vuitton in 2003 and made it this year onto "TIME'S 100 Most Influential People List". Vuitton's art director Marc Jacobs wrote in TIME: "When I first saw Takashi Murakami's work, I smiled and wondered, Where did this explosion come from? Who was responsible for this collision of psychedelia, manga and, well, art? Then I thought, I would love it if the mind that imagined this dizzying world of jellyfish eyes, singing moss, magic mushrooms and morphing creatures would be willing to have a go at the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram ..." Consequently the MMK shows on its second floor the newest Murakami designed Vuitton products.
Like Warhol, Koons and Hirst, he started to run a factory named "Hiropon" (1996), that he turned later into a company called "Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd." (2001). Kaikai Kiki can be translated as "Elegant and Bizarre" and is located in Tokyo and Long Island City, New York. In both he has more than 100 employees working on his paintings, fiberglass sculptures, inflatable balloons, videos, T-shirts, key chains, plush dolls, and Monopoly Games. It started with Mr. DOB – his Alter Ego – and became a Murakami Universe. There's a message in his characters: The flowers are smiling, so he says, because we should smile nevertheless in a complicated world that is threatened by global warming. And two cute personalities reveal both sides of the artist himself: Kaikai (good) and Kiki (bad).
The creative process begins as a sketch in his pocket-size notebook. Then full-size drawings are scanned into the computer. From there, Murakami creates his work with Adobe Illustrator – searching through thousands of colours – until he hands the finished version to his assistants. His employees print out the work on paper, silk-screen the outline onto canvas, and start to paint.
Murakami's intention is to connect ancient Japanese art from the Edo period and today's Manga and Anime. In example, his provoking sculpture "My Lonesome Cowboy" alludes with its white Sperm Lasso – coming from an erected penis – to Hokusai's wood-block print "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" (1832).
In 2003, Francois Pinault – owner of Christie's – purchased the Rockefeller sculpture of "Mr. Pointy" for $1.5 million. Murakami holds the price record for a work by a contemporary Japanese artist until today.
Get updates direct to your inbox with the Dazed bi-weekly newsletter