Takashi Murakami - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, New York

  • Literature

    Takashi Murakami: KaiKai Kiki, exh. cat., Fondation Cartier pour l’art Contemporain, Paris, 2002, p. 27

  • Catalogue Essay

    As well as being a natural storyteller, Takashi Murakami has an unrivalled ability to provoke thoughtfulness and emotion with his colourful, fantastical works. Accomplished in many media, his practice effortlessly fuses the fine art rigour of painting and sculpture with the commercial disciplines of fashion and animation.

    The sculpture presented here, Troll’s Umbrella, features two recurrent themes in Murakami’s works: jellyfish eyes and mushrooms. These symbols are part of an ongoing narrative the artist has created, as established in the work Jellyfish Eyes, Tatsuya, Saki, Max and Shimon. These characters – children Tatsuya, Saki and Max, plus Shimon the dog – inhabit the world of Jellyfish Eyes, in a story involving yokai (traditional Japanese monsters), a divorced couple and a group of foreign workers. The children take part in a war between humans and yokai, whose stakes are high enough to decide the fate of humanity. The yokai occupy a world which extends beyond the third dimension; their eyes are constantly revolving in an unimaginable way, as befits the denizens of multidimensional space. In Troll’s Umbrella we humans are shown the multiple jellyfish eyes that the yokai inhabit, a motif also inspired by Murakami’s childhood model of the hundred-eyed spirit Hyakume (a creation of manga artist Shigeru Mizuki), which was covered in glow-in-the-dark eyes.

    Mushrooms too occupy an epic place in Murakami’s personal mythology. It’s a fascination which, like the multiple eyes, began in his 1960s childhood, when he’d obsessively study the mushrooms his mother grew in her garden. Hundreds of varieties are represented in his paintings and sculptures; they relate to an other-worldly dimension where psychedelic fungi inhabit a place between heaven and earth. In a graver resonance, the shapes of these sometimes deadly, sometimes hallucinatory delicacies unavoidably recall the atom clouds that vanquished Japan during the Second World War. They also allude to the work of Takehisa Yumeji, a popular Japanese artist from the early 20th century, who employed the mushroom as a charming feminine motif and – like Murakami – trod the border between fine and applied art. Murakami has said of his own mushrooms: “For me theyseem both erotic and cute while evoking – especially for the Western imagination – the fantastic world of fairy tale. I thought that, by uniting the eroticism and the magic side of mushrooms, I could use them as motifs in my work.”

    An innovator in many ways, Murakami is known for his fusion of high and low art, and for coining the phrase and movement “Superflat”. He uses this term to refer to various flattened forms in Japanese graphic art, animation, pop culture and fine arts, as well as his own particular artistic style. Murakami hopes a new culture will spring from Superflat and rejuvenate the Japanese contemporary art world, once saying “the Japanese don’t like serious art. But if I can transform cute characters into serious art, they will love my piece” (quoted by Arthur Lubow in ‘The Murakami Method’, in New York Times, 3 April 2005). As well as his work as an artist, the charismatic Murakami is a curator, an entrepreneur, and a student of Japanese society. He is often compared to Andy Warhol, and not just because he lives and works in a factory. A skilled self-promoter, the artist is also internationally renowned for his collaboration with designer Marc Jacobs to create handbags and other products for the Louis Vuitton fashion house. His motivation for this profuse and varied practice, he has stated, is to “create [and] grow from something personal to something higher” (the artist in an interview by Mako Wakasa, Journal of Contemporary Art, 2000).

    Murakami’s large-scale sculptures, such as Troll’s Umbrella, form an important part of his output, not least because of the attention they attract. He has said of these works, “[Viewers] ask what they are, while they don’t ask much about my smaller sculptures because they look at small sculptures all the time” (the artist in an interview by Mako Wakasa, Journal of Contemporary Art, 2000).

  • 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


Troll’s Umbrella

Soft steel, epoxy with fibreglass, paint and sand.
235 × 140.2 × 140.2 cm (92 1/2 × 55 1/4 × 55 1/4 in).
This work is from an edition of 5.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £385,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

16 February 2012