Takashi Murakami - New Now New York Tuesday, September 28, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "What you need to know is that I want to (a) approach the great accomplishments of Walt Disney, (b) add to that Duchamp’s humor and Warhol’s devilishness, and (c) do as Steve Jobs did and build a creative business that cannot be copied." —Takashi Murakami

    With an ironic flair similar to that of Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami has become one of the most instantly recognizable artists in the world, with his characteristic patterns and subjects printed, painted, and sewn into the fabric of contemporary society. With a conceptual oeuvre extending to all forms of culture, Murakami’s universe of stylized figures from Japanese history and culture rests at the nexus of commodity culture and fine art, fusing the specialized skills of the artisan with the approach to production of contemporary industry.


    Detail of the present work

    In Engagement with This World, 2015, the word Hollow sits in spray painted lettering atop a turbulent sea of purple, black, and white skulls. The macabre backdrop replaces Murakami’s signature smiling flowers, adding a cartoonish sense of existential angst to an otherwise playful image. A singular and uniquely titled work in a larger series of “Hollow” paintings that straddle media and industries, Engagement with This World is an emblematic outlier of Takashi Murakami’s worldwide success, a vivid demonstration of his mingling metaphors of Japanese commercialism and historical fine art practices.


    The present work espouses Murakami’s iconic “Superflat Manifesto.” Published alongside the exhibition Superflat in 2000, the essay argued that Japanese culture, history, and imagery contain an inherent flatness. From traditional Ukiyo-e woodblock printing to the stylized figures of manga comics, Murakami contended that flatness reigns supreme and offers new aesthetic futures. The confrontational frontality, oversaturated screen-printed hues, and overpopulated picture plane of Engagement with This World continue this exploration of depth and authenticity two decades later. Murakami’s Superflat is thus both literal and theoretical, explaining his depthless work through its relentless comingling of past and present.

    "'[That] unique Japanese sensibility,’ as Murakami called it, was compressed into an 'image of flatness,’ a stage for any number of figures to act out their various dramas, whether habitués of the floating world or the demimonde of the comic strip." —Pamela Lee

    Art and entertainment combine in the varied use of the word Hollow in Murakami’s work. Recalling the term hollow signifier, a word or image onto which we impose meaning, the motif’s flexibility is boundless, appearing in Murakami’s 2018 collaboration with the fashion house Off-White and in similarly skull-covered paintings. Embodying the repetitive practices of Pop, the present work exists both on its own as a fully articulated painting and as evidence of an ever-evolving conceptual program.

    • Provenance

      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • 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


Engagement with This World

signed, inscribed and dated "TAKASHI 2015 Hollow" on the overlap
acrylic on canvas
39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. (100 x 100 cm)
Painted in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $176,400

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig

Head of New Now Sale

212 940 1279


New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2021