Takashi Murakami's Ego

The world-renowned Japanese artist presents his most diverse exhibition to date at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar

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The meticulously crafted exhibition plunges the viewer into Takashi’s mind, providing a rare opportunity to explore a wide range of works including his iconic ‘superflat’ paintings and sculptures. However, the work that steals the show isn’t the circus tent in the main hall or even the giant inflatable sculpture of the artist, but the 100-metre painting.

My preoccupation is showing people something different and also to promote Japan. My aim is to create a tourist attraction to bring tourists back to Japan after the tsunami by showing the good part of Japan

The representation of Japanese suffering following the March 2011 disaster was created especially for the show. It depicts the human being’s ego when faced with nature. The painting acts as a reminder of the limitations of our condition as human beings. One of the world’s best-selling artists, the same artist whose controversial masturbating manga sculpture, My Lonesome Cowboy sold for £9.5million in May 2008, is now showing his most diverse show in one of the Gulf’s strictest Muslim countries. 

Dazed Digital: Does showing your work in a strict Muslim country add constraints to your creativity?
Takashi Murakami: No. Each exhibition is different and is specific to the culture of the place. I think about how to bridge the gap between cultures. My Lonesome Cowboy was a reaction to American culture and its fascination with porn – I would not show this in Doha because this isn’t an issue here. To bridge cultures I had to think about cultural context.

DD: Your work is inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, who would express their psychological trauma via their work. What is your preoccupation?
Takashi Murakami:
I am a painter, not a philosopher! It is true that Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art are my main influences as well as traditional Japanese painting. My preoccupation is showing people something different and also to promote Japan. My aim is to create a tourist attraction to bring tourists back to Japan after the tsunami by showing the good part of Japan.

DD: Should we expect to start seeing Arab influences emerge in your work?
Takashi Murakami: Maybe. This is the beginning of my exploration of Arab culture. My first impression was a futuristic one; something like Star Wars, which fascinates me. It’s similar to Tokyo, but completely different in style.

DD: What is the theme of the show?
Takashi Murakami: The theme is religion and how people experience religion in different ways. Religion is important here and in Japan. I wanted to bridge the gap through the importance of religion.

DD: Who is your audience?
Takashi Murakami: Children. I want to tell them to enjoy their childhood. But there is a double meaning. The repetition of the flowers makes the paintings overwhelming. I want to prepare them for the struggle of the future. Most children will feel the double meaning even if they don’t fully understand it.

The theme is religion and how people experience religion in different ways. Religion is important here and in Japan. I wanted to bridge the gap through the importance of religion

DD: Whose ego are we seeing?
Takashi Murakami: The huge self-portrait balloon makes people think it’s my ego. I don’t think I have a big ego, but if you ask my team, they will tell you I do! I explore the relationship between humans and nature, as you can see in the 100-metre painting. This is the human ego, where we think we can control nature.

DD: How do you want people to react?
Takashi Murakami: I want them to buy something from the shop – not for business, but for emotion. I want them to feel something so strong, that it motivates them to take something away, a memory. I love museum shops. The Tate Modern shop is my favourite because it’s so big and every time I go there I end up having to Fedex things to myself! It’s almost an obsession for me.

I want to buy everything to remind me of what I saw. I have so many postcards and when I get home I put them somewhere. After some time you forget you even bought all this. And this is part of the museum experience, that emotion that makes people want to take something away from it. That motivation is important for me.

DD: What is next?
Takashi Murakami: I am making a film, which is going to be released in Japan later this year. The trailer is being shown in the circus tent of my show here. But I would also like to show my work in Beijing, where I have many fans.

Text by Rooksana Hossenally

Takashi Murakami’s Ego-Murakami, will run until 24 June 2012 at the Museum of Islamic Art, in Doha, Qatar

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