Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • “We are driven by an innate ambition to make art works that are shaped by societal observations—in a variety of media—which by their existence produce a new cultural impact.”
    — Virgil Abloh

    Hailed as trailblazers in their respective fields, the distinct visual languages of art superstar Takashi Murakami and fashion designer Virgil Abloh further took the world by storm when they joined forces in 2018, over a decade after the pair first met in 2007. Influenced by a mixture of Japanese post-pop art and American street style, this collaboration resulted in works that masterfully represent both creators’  signature aesthetic whilst also explore the overlapping of art, fashion and commercialism in modern society. Blurring the lines between previously separated disciplines, Murakami and Abloh playfully disrupt the divisions between high and low art, challenging the existing methods of cultural production in an increasingly diverse and connected world.


    Detail of the present work


    Executed on canvas - a format familiar to Murakami yet relatively foreign to Abloh, the present work is an amalgamation of the pair’s individual trademarks. A motif synonymous with his oeuvre, Murakami’s flowers are adapted from the Nihonga subject of setsugetsuka (moon, snow and flower). Hypnotic, vibrant and carefree, flowers of various colour schemes and sizes decorate the entire surface, as if they are multiplying at rapid speeds. Amidst the blizzard of smiling blossoms, “FLOWER” is boldly printed in the centre of the canvas in Abloh’s brand, Off-White’s signature white Helvetica font, which is typically found on garments or the side of shoes.


    The extravagance of Murakami’s technicoloured flowers contrasts the minimalistic representation of Abloh’s signature typeface as well as the chosen word itself – “FLOWERS”, which may be considered a visual onomatopoeia as it communicates exactly what is being portrayed. The fusion of these iconic pop culture elements further blurs the distinctions between fine art, consumer and popular culture, as Murakami and Abloh redefine the forms contemporary art can take. Sharing the common goal of exploring creative expression, their refusal to conform to preconceived boundaries prompts those observing to search for profound artistic dialogues among the clashing symbols.



    Damien Hirst, Zinc Sulfide, 2004
    Sold by Phillips London, 3 March 2022 for £346,500 (premium)
    Artwork: © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved/ DACS, London/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2023


    The repetition of forms and the linkage to commercialisation in “FLOWER” recalls the practice of Damien Hirst, whose unique branding is often characterised by the presence of colourful, repeating patterns. At the same time, Abloh’s use of striking font draws similarities with American artist Barbara Kruger. Whereas Kruger makes use of boldface sans serif font to commentate on societal issues, Abloh utilises typography to change the viewer’s perception of the object it denotes, particularly in conveying detachment from society through quotation marks.


    Though “FLOWER” literally refers to the floral motifs found in the work, the deliberate inclusion of punctuation not only draws attention to his text, but also embeds a sense of irony and doubt over its definition. A pragmatics version of the ‘readymade’, it echoes Murakami’s eerily cheerful Flowers, which, on a deeper level, represent Japanese trauma sustained after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.


    “FLOWER” is more than an experimental project by two leaders of contemporary consumer culture. Going beyond the discovery of new pictorial languages, Murakami and Abloh look to subvert the traditional definition of fine art in ways that mirror their personal practices – the pioneer of Superflat, Murakami’s work has helped push Japanese subculture to the mainstream, whilst Abloh’s embrace of streetwear successfully elevated the style to the level of haute couture. Combining well-loved aesthetics with commercial undertones and simultaneously encouraging the viewer to question the object itself, the creative duo’s desire to dismantle and re-examine existing frameworks has rendered their short-lived yet prolific partnership one of the most influential collaborations of the 21st Century.


    In Interview: A Cross-disciplinary Collaboration

    “When future audiences look at our work, I’d like them to think of the end of an era when art was still sheltered in a sanctuary, and when we were working ceaselessly to bring it outside.”
    — Takashi Murakami

    Speaking to Sara Roffino of Cultured Magazine in 2018, the year “FLOWER” was created, Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh both delved into the wider significance of their disruptive practice:


    Sara Roffino: You’ve both approached your practices in specific relationship with the audience—with an intention to shift a perspective or to open up a perspective. How does this specific collaboration do that and go beyond just bringing people from the art world to the fashion world? What are the linguistic or institutional frameworks you are hoping to shift through this collaboration?


    Takashi Murakami: Because I am much older than Virgil, Virgil has commented on the work that I have already done, especially my collaboration with Louis Vuitton. The fact that he referenced it made me really happy because while the collaboration was noted in both the art industry and the fashion industry, it wasn’t viewed as anything significant in either world. But I found that there was a recipient in the form of Virgil. He digested it and it became part of his own expression. Art is sort of a closed-off industry. Today with social media it looks like people are in dialogue and expressing together but it’s still a solitary process, so to know that there was a recipient and for Virgil to actually explain to me what he received and how he expressed it was such a fresh feeling. I was moved by it. In terms of the new audience, Virgil has created a new window so it is a new experience for me, and that’s why I can come up with new ideas as well.


    Virgil Abloh: I mimic what Takashi said. It’s part of the motivation that there’s a new audience. There’s been a boundary between art and fashion that you couldn’t cross. In my own work I’m interested in showing how those lines can be crossed and how new bridges can be built. The great thing is our two exhibitions at Gagosian have shown what the new audience looks and feels like and what they’re intrigued by. That Takashi and I have been able to make work that represents that community is quite inspiring.


    Read the full interview here.


    Collector’s Digest


    • Born in Tokyo in 1962, Takashi Murakami gained international recognition in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and has since collaborated with well-known brands, such as Louis Vuitton and Vans.

    • Founder of Off-White and the artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear from 2018 to 2021, Vigil Abloh was an American fashion designer that bridged the gap between streetwear and luxury clothing.

    • Murakami and Abloh first worked together in designing Kanye West's album cover for his 2007 album Graduation.

    • The present work is part of a groundbreaking series of collaborations that merge the pair’s expertise in fine art and fashion design.

    • To showcase their collaborative creations, Murakami and Abloh presented exhibitions of their collaborative works at 3 Gagosian locations in 2018: future history, London, “TECHNICOLOR 2”, Paris and “AMERICA TOO”, Beverly Hills.


    Virgil Abloh and Takashi Murakami Talk About Merging Design and Fashion with ComplexCon, 2018

    • Provenance

      Gagosian, Hong Kong
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and dated '"VIRGIL" ©2018 TAKASHI 2018' on the overlap
acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on aluminum frame
126.5 x 100 cm. (49 3/4 x 39 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for HK$2,921,000

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Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023