Takashi Murakami - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, July 8, 2020 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Galerie Perrotin
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Hello Kitty Wonderland
    Messy Desk, 2019
    Private Collection
    Suggestive and bold, Takashi Murakami employs his trademark synthesis of popular culture and fine art with a manga-style execution in a patchwork of beaming sunflowers, each one the very apotheosis of happiness. Smiles impossibly wide and eyes twinkling, these faces exude a joyful innocence that is at once captivating yet uplifting. Matched with a scintillating palette of crimsons, pinks and oranges, they embody the quality of kawaii, or cuteness – a quality awash in Japanese culture from calligraphy, to advertisements and figures like Hello Kitty and Pikachu. A notable feature of this work is its circular aspect, a feature that the artist had toyed with the past and has executed brilliantly here, allowing it to act as a three-dimensional counterweight to his ‘Superflat’ theory, while imbuing the composition with a real presence.

    Gukei (Sumiyoshi Hirozumi)
    Rikka arrangement, c. 1700
    Toeing the line between tradition and innovation, orthodox and revolutionary, Murakami eschews conventional labels in the creation of his works. Instead, from his completely unique psyche comes a defiant blend of high-octane anime and otaku aesthetics within a classical Japanese framework of flattened representation. Though seemingly wholly contemporary, Murakami was educated at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, studying Japanese painting while training in the school of Nihon Ga, which sought to retain traditional Japanese techniques, ideals and artistic sensibilities. It was here that he began to paint flowers, which have become a motif focal to his oeuvre, as he would paint them every day, and later encouraged his students to paint them every day in order to train their technique and artistic eye. Though going beyond a simple technical instrument, the flowers represent something much more profound, even cathartic, as in the artist’s words “At the beginning, to be frank, I didn't like flowers, but as I continued teaching in the school, my feelings changed: their smell, their shape - it all made me feel almost physically sick, and at the same time I found them very "cute". Each one seemed to have its own feelings, its own personality... And these days, now that I draw flowers rather frequently, that sensation has come back very vividly. I find them just as pretty, just as disturbing. (T. Murakami quoted in Takashi Murakami Kaikai Kiki, exh. cat., Paris and London, 2002, p. 84). Furthermore his decision to place each flower in such close proximity to each other stems from his desire to create a scene similar to cinematic shots panning through and over crowds of people in films, utilised in films such as the Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, and Bohemian Rhapsody.

    Jan Davidsz De Heem
    Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase, 1650
    Collection of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
    Murakami’s fascination with flowers further acts as a bridge with Western art, where they have long been symbols of romance, anguish and veneration, as well as acting as vehicles of contrasting emotions - reproduction or decay, purity or promiscuity. In this sense he grounds himself in the history and practice of great artists who have come before him – from the Northern Renaissance’s preoccupation with vanitas and premonitions of memento mori, to Van Gogh’s achingly beautiful renditions of sunflowers. In particular his work resonates with that of the latter, Van Gogh himself being an avid collector of ukiyo-e prints and an admirer of their rejection of spatial illusions, while undoubtedly using ikebana flower arrangements for his own floral compositions. In a letter to his brother dated 1888, he proclaimed “And we wouldn’t be able to study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming much happier and more cheerful, and it makes us return to nature, despite our education and our work in a world of convention”. However rather than losing himself in derivation and imitation, Murakami fashions a seat on an equal echelon to these figures, producing something that is conceptually traditional, yet entirely radical.

    Refusing to limit himself to the confines of fine art, Murakami really is a multidisciplinary creative, with a long standing collaboration with Louis Vuitton under his belt, and more recently with Virgil Abloh and Supreme, as well as producing music videos for Billie Eilish and Pharrell, and album covers for Kanye West and J Balvin. A true visionary, Takashi Murakami is undoubtedly one of our generation’s most revered, and greatest artists.

  • Artist Biography

    Takashi Murakami

    Japanese • 1962

    Takashi Murakami is best known for his contemporary combination of fine art and pop culture. He uses recognizable iconography like Mickey Mouse and cartoonish flowers and infuses it with Japanese culture. The result is a boldly colorful body of work that takes the shape of paintings, sculptures and animations.

    In the 1990s, Murakami founded the Superflat movement in an attempt to expose the "shallow emptiness of Japanese consumer culture." The artist plays on the familiar aesthetic of mangas, Japanese-language comics, to render works that appear democratic and accessible, all the while denouncing the universality and unspecificity of consumer goods. True to form, Murakami has done collaborations with numerous brands and celebrities including Kanye West, Louis Vuitton, Pharrell Williams and Google.

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signed and dated 'TAKASHI 2016' on the reverse
acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas laid on board
diameter: 150 cm. (59 in.)
Executed in 2016.

HK$2,800,000 - 3,800,000 

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+852 2318 2026


20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 8 July 2020