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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
    Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Equal parts playful and critical, cute and menacing, Takashi Murakami’s DOB Splash (walkman), 1999, is an astute reflection of the artist’s ongoing exploration of Japanese culture. Murakami first created his recurring motif, Mr. DOB, in 1992 as a kind of self-portrait – an alter ego inspired by anime and manga characters that have attained cult status in Japan. A synthesis of language and cartoon imagery, Mr. DOB is a physical manifestation of the letters “D-O-B” – “D” and “B” inscribed on each ear, with an “O”-shaped face situated in between. A contraction of the Japanese slang expression “dobojite”, or “why?”, his name alludes to the artist’s critical attitude towards more complex themes of consumerism, technology and violence.

    The hyper-compressed, depthless surface of DOB Splash (walkman) is characteristic of Murakami’s signature Superflat aesthetic, a fusion of traditional Japanese painting with the flat-screen imagery of the digital age. In DOB Splash (walkman), the floating character is juxtaposed against an expanse of monochromatic blue, emphasizing the extreme two-dimensionality of the composition. For Murakami, this rendering highlights the flattening of Japanese culture and democracy as a byproduct of technology and consumerism.

    In DOB Splash (walkman), Mr. DOB hovers in the air against a dazzling blue background, a zigzagged spray trailing in his wake. A symbol of mass consumption, he is reminiscent of the American icon Mickey Mouse – with his white gloves and cartoonish ears – yet he retains a distinct cuteness synonymous with Japanese youth culture. However, beneath this playful guise, Mr. DOB assumes a more villainous character, revealing the superficiality of consumerist culture, hedonism, and the way in which excess can overwhelm. As Paul Schimmel explains, “Murakami has created a constantly evolving character that embodies all the complexities and nuances of his ever-changing personal and corporate identity” (Paul Schimmel, “Making Murakami”, ©Murakami, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2007, p. 67).

  • Artist Biography

    Takashi Murakami

    Japanese • 1962

    Best known for his contemporary combination of fine art and pop culture, Takashi Murakami is one of the most acclaimed postwar Asian artists. Born in 1962, Murakami studied at Tokyo University of the Arts to train as an animator, but ultimately specialized and earned a Ph.D. in Nihonga, the academic style of traditional Japanese painting. Employing a bold graphic style infused with Japanese culture that has become widely recognizable, Murakami rose to fame in the 1990s for coining the term “Superflat.” Relating the flattened space of Japanese graphic art to the conflation of art and commerce in consumer culture, his Superflat theory bore into the eponymous postmodern art movement that has inspired an entire generation of contemporary Japanese artists. Creating supercharged, cartoon-like paintings and sculptures, the artist plays on the familiar aesthetic of anime and manga, rendering works that shatter the visual dichotomies between high and low art. Since 2002, Murakami has done numerous collaborations with various brands and celebrities including Louis Vuitton, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Google.

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DOB Splash (walkman)

signed, inscribed and dated "Director Yoshikazu Hirata staff. Mr. Takahiro Inamori Takashi '99" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas on board
47 1/2 x 35 1/2 in. (120.7 x 90.2 cm.)
Executed in 1999.

$220,000 - 280,000 

Sold for $237,500

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 450 Park Avenue