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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Blum & Poe, Takashi Murakami, Inochi, May 14 - June 26, 2004
    Liverpool, Jellyfish Eyes Characters - Liverpool Biennial International 04, September - November, 2004 (another example exhibited)
    Versailles, Murakami Versailles, September - December, 2010 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    F. Bonami, C. Christov-Bakargiev, The Patagruel Syndrome, Turin: Skira Editore, 2005, n.p.
    Murakami Versailles, exh. cat., Versailles, 2010, pp. 65-66 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "With these three characters......I wanted, I think, to create my own ‘gods of art.'" Takashi Murakami, 2002

    Underpinning Takashi Murakami’s work is a complex understanding of Japanese visual culture, and a sense of its manifold histories. He draws heavily upon circumambient material, owing a special debt to otaku culture, a particularly obsessive form of manga and anime fandom. His artistic output, in all its varied forms, is populated by monsters, toy-like figurines, and cartoonish lines, often in debased and altered forms. This tendency is manifested with particular force in sculptures like My Lonesome Cowboy in which toy-like plasticity gives way to grotesque sexuality. The obsession typical of otaku fandom finds expression in his use of recurrent characters, most notably DOB, an anime-derived creature whose menacing grin is a common motif in his work. Murakami thus situates a personal iconography and brand within a subcultural tradition.

    In seeking a visual language capable of representing his experience of contemporary Japan, Murakami is also drawn further into his nation’s past. In the early stages of his artistic development he studied nihon-ga painting, a formally exacting nineteenth century style that fuses Western and Eastern methodologies. But perhaps more important to his work is the Edo period tradition of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Translated as “floating world”, ukiyo-e prints often depicted scenes of youthful hedonism and as Amada Cruz recognizes “were a popular form of entertainment (much like manga today), full of humor and, sometimes, uninhibited sex” (‘DOB in the Land of Otaku’, Takashi Murakami: the Meaning of Nonsense of the Meaning, exh. cat., 1999, p. 19). By uniting apparently disparate historical strands, Murakami allows points of continuity to emerge. Most importantly, the identification of parallels allows him to arrive at a theory of Japanese aesthetics that emphasizes a flattened visual plane as its distinctive stylistic feature. In his own practice this two-dimensionality finds expression in a “Superflat” methodology, his own coinage which denotes not only a technical approach but also a levelled postmodern terrain in which once-axiomatic boundaries are increasingly redundant.

    One such boundary which Murakami’s work is interested in challenging is that between art and commercialism. In 2007, he brought his “Superflat” style to Kanye West’s Graduation album cover, but perhaps his best known commercial collaboration is with Louis Vuitton. He began working with the company in 2002, designing artwork for a series of handbags, and in 2007 installed a store selling the fruit of their collaboration inside the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. This willingness to situate his work within a globalized economy has understandably attracted comparisons to American artists like Jeff Koons, and even to Pop Art forebears like Andy Warhol. The latter comparison is particularly persistent, and understandably so. In 1996, Murakami established a studio called the Hiropon Factory whose was a “clear nod to Warhol and his infamous Factory, where a changing cast of characters similarly assisted him in his varied activities.” (‘DOB in the Land of Otaku’, Takashi Murakami: the Meaning of Nonsense of the Meaning, exh. cat., 1999, p. 16) The Hiropon Factory has since grown into Kakai Kiki Co. Ltd, which continues to challenge established lines between art and merchandise.

    The present lot, Jellyfish Eyes-Saki, embodies many of Murakami’s principal concerns. Manga and anime are undoubtedly great influences. The sculpture is an image of kitsch and childlike femininity which gestures towards the kawaii culture of quaintness. The flowers emerging from the orb on which the figure stands form an important part of this aesthetic, but also refer back to an older tradition of ornamentation in Japanese art. As Midori Matsui notes, “to decorate, or kazura, is deeply associated in Japanese culture with celebrating life, warding off the awareness of death and the transience of cherished moments.” (‘Toward a Definition of Tokyo Pop: The Classical Transgressions of Takashi Murakami’, Takashi Murakami: the Meaning of Nonsense of the Meaning, exh. cat., 1999, p. 23) In Jellyfish Eyes–Saki, these connotations are made manifest by the smiling flowers, a motif which has since recurred in Murakami’s work, most famously in his lithograph Field of Smiling Flowers. Yet, for all its ornamentation and kawaii cuteness, the work allows for a subtle discordance. The flowers are sparse, and the figure alone on the orb. As ever, Murakami is interested in creating space for contradiction; the apparent optimism and naïvety of the sculpture is offset by intimations of a deeper isolation.

    Jellyfish Eyes–Saki also articulates Murakami’s concerns with the interrelation of the artistic and commercial spheres. The central figure is evidently derived from manga and anime cartoons, and one could easily imagine her as a mass-produced toy or model. Indeed, a character named Saki returns in Murakami’s 2013 film Jellyfish Eyes. Yet in its scale, and elegance of composition, the work proudly asserts its status as art. When Marukami exhibited this piece in his iconic and provocative exhibition at the Palace of Versailles, this duality was brought into stark relief. It was one of twenty two pieces whose pop-saturated contemporaneity was juxtaposed with the 17th century setting, facilitating, in Murakami’s terms, a "face-off between the baroque period and postwar Japan." (Takashi Murakami quoted in Lizzy Davies, ‘Takashi Murakami Takes on Critics with Provocative Versailles Exhibition,’ The Guardian, 10 September 2010) Ultimately, this is a work which embodies a series of tensions and suggestive parallels; informed by interleaved strands of Japanese visual culture, it interrogates apparent contradictions, brilliantly negotiating the terms of engagement between pop culture and high art.

  • 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.

    View More Works


Jellyfish Eyes - Saki

FRP, steel, acrylic, and lacquer, on a painted wood artist's plinth
sculpture 52 1/2 x 30 1/2 x 38 7/8 in. (133.4 x 77.5 x 98.7 cm)
plinth 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 x 8 in. (100 x 100 x 20.3 cm)

This work is number 1 from an edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs, each uniquely colored.

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

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