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  • Provenance

    Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Rockefeller Center, Reversed Double Helix, 9 September – 12 October, 2003 (another example exhibited); Tokyo, Roppongi Hills, Tongari-kun – Mr. Pointy & the Four Guards, 22 July – 25 September, 2005 (another example exhibited); Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, 29 October, 2007 – 11 February, 2008; Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum of Art, 4 April – 13 July, 2008; © Murakami; Frankfurt, Museum fur Moderne Kunst, September – December, 2008; Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, February – May 2009; © Murakami (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Exhibition catalogue, The Museum of Contemporary Art, © Murakami, Los Angeles, 2007, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Arriving on the art scene in the 1990s, artist Takashi Murakami has wasted no time catapulting himself to the forefront of global contemporary art, establishing himself as contemporary culture’s most formidable force with his blend of pop culture iconography, with historic and religious traditions. Since his emergence, Takashi Murakami’s work has done so much to challenge all that is held as sacred and sacrosanct within the realm of high art. The viewer is confronted by an artist who has grown progressively in stature since an initial spate of small scale exhibitions in his native Japan in 1995. Since then, Murakami has progressed as an artist to a level where his name can be heard in the same breath as Warhol, Pollock and De Kooning, mooted as someone that can join the upper echelons of the artistic hierarchy in the 21st Century.
     
    “In Japan there is no pecking order whereby an original outranks a well made copy – or a work of art in a gallery is more precious than of a piece of merchandise in a shop.” (A. Lubow, The Murakami Method, New York Times Magazine, 3 April 2005, p. 76)
     
    Murakami has been credited for having innovated contemporary Japanese art, creating new visual languages, genres, and theories surrounding art, forever altering the preconception of art within his own country. He has influenced the reception of Japanese contemporary art as an original development responding to the conditions and sensibilities of the current postmodern and global age. Murakami sets out to change the rules of the game of art, employing different strategies to engage with new audiences, most conspicuous of all is his incorporation of manga and anime production methods into his work. Murakami now plays his own game, applying vernacular resources to their best advantage without depending on any pre-existing western model.
     
    The work of Takashi Murakami has been strongly linked to a variety of artistic movements and styles including surrealism, conceptualism, pop, and so on, but no matter the comparison, it is easy to suggest without hesitation that Murakami is a movement and style in his own right.  ‘We are surrounded today by too many images to source or rank. While it would be fatuous to say that we are all Japanese now, we are surely all living in Murakami’s world.’ It is Murakami’s factory style of working that has triggered comparisons to Andy Warhol and Western artistic counterparts such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst.
     
    When considering the idea of Murakami’s influence over the art world, his developed theory of the Superflat and the way that it has been received by artists and critics on a global level articulates perfectly the artist’s genius and ability to influence. ‘Superflat gained a lot of attention for promoting the notion that there are no boundaries between low and high art (it contends that low art is high art). But Superflat was also hijacked by cultural critics who tried to turn it into an all-encompassing theory purporting to ‘explain’ postmodern Japan to the West. Superflat was even heralded as the postmodern future that awaits us all. Once we reject grand organizing theories that animate the West – religion, Marxism, imperialism and their fellow travelers – we can replace them with simple aesthetics, taking pleasure in small details of daily life, like an otaku. (Taken from Los Angeles Times, Sunday October 28, 2007). Ideals of Superflat, although primarily found in two dimensional works appear to seamlessly negotiate their way into Murakami’s sculptural epic works, the current lot, Tongari-kun, is a perfect example. Its sinuous designs and rich colours evoke a fusion of Surrealism, Art Nouveau and Japanese kimonos, the colours of the 23-foot-tall figure are enticing in exactly the same manner used by pop artists, most comparably Andy Warhol’s camouflage paintings.
     
    The image of Tongari- kun is heavily influenced by the image of Buddha mixed with Murakami’s signature cartoon and exaggerated style, resulting in a figure that avoids directly representing any one thing, yet it references all in an open-handed manner. Tongari- kun embraces contemporary cultures attitude that nothing is sacred and that every image is available to be repossessed even those of the holy and mystical. With this contemporary attitude in mind we consider the outright Disneyfication of Buddhist symbols, in this work Murakami takes the adaptation of Buddha ten steps further, ultimately presenting his audience with a new epic icon, that of Tongari- kun (Mr. Pointy).This is a challenging position for contemporary art to take and it places Murakami’s audience in the centre of a debate surrounding the re-appropriation of ancient sacred iconography, is it read as satirical blasphemy or is it an embracement of a creed that has been all but expelled from current artistic practice. This work exploits Murakami’s complex use of allegory and cultural fragment to display certain ideas of a disturbed utopian vision; it sits on the razor edge of frightening and playful. Throughout his artistic practice Murakami displayed an incredible ability to pluck imagery from art history and religion, mixing them with corporate and pop culture entities, supplying his audience with works that are historically and culturally aware but completely relevant to contemporary society. Thought the employment of such a diverse network of references, Murakami has established an audience that is boundless, spanning nationality, social classes, and ethnicity. A similar version of this work was the centre piece of a public art exhibition in New York, situated in the centre of the iconic landmark of Rockefeller Centre in 2003, Reversed Double Helix was one of Murakami’s most ambitious U.S. shows. The epic installation captured the imagination of its Western audience, Murakami was not only an admired artistic talent, he was also a desired object. This sentiment was further established when the artists collaborated with Marc Jacobs, artistic director of Louis Vuitton, to design an entire seasons worth of luxury products. Such an interaction between fine art and consumer culture has never been so blatant and unapologetic, showing the influence that contemporary art has over merchandising and entertainment industries that dissimilate into everyday culture.
     
    “I think the market of contemporary art should be more visible. I don’t understand why artists pretend as if the market does not exist.The 1980s, in which art went commercial, is now over, and we are in the period in which the economy is bad after a big boom. And that gives us a ground on which we can create something as explosive as the art of AndyWarhol. Ours is the time in which the true quality of contemporary art must be discussed.” (Takashi Murakami, Towards a strong art that departs from a sacred zone, Tokyo, March 1992, p. 96-97)
     
    Why do Japanese have to love Greek sculptures? What do Buddhist sculptures mean in Buddhism? Iconolatry occurred in order to disseminate foreign cultures among people more easily. Considering a Buddhist sculpture such as Nyorai, it might have been like an animation figure. It was accepted with the vague aesthetics of that time. Although today people think that Nyorai was recognized as a beautiful statue from the beginning, the evaluation of Nyorai just might have changed with centuries. It is highly possible that the statue was merely considered to be a new and pretty one in fashion, or an icon for people to escape from reality. Considering what is an icon of that kind now, I think of a 3-D animation figure. It started with Sporn in the US and Ram in Japan. Japanese can buy very cheap 3-D animation figures, thanks to cheap Chinese labor. This is a product out of labor exploitation. In order to understand and describe why this culture has emerged, I caricatured it and created a life-size sculpture. (Takashi Murakami in conversation with M. Wakasa at the Murakami Studio, Brooklyn, New York, February 2000, taken from Journal of Contemporary Art www.jca-online.com)
     
    Esthetic taste is a consistent theme in Murakami’s work, a theme that is specifically linked to Japanese history and culture. Anyone visiting Tokyo today can scarcely help but notice the contemporary zeitgeist of kawai, the Japanese word for "cute" that describes saccharine and contrived girlish clothing and accessories. Typically interpreted as a sign of social conformity – things ‘cute’ are by definition non-confrontational – the subculture also has a violent and sexually explicit underside. In his work, Murakami conflates the Japanese obsession with status with the consumption of kitsch. This inherent conflict provides the tension that fuels Murakami’s investigation of questions of high and low, elite and popular. (H. Drohojowska-Philp, © Murakami, 2007, taken from www.artnet.com)
     

  • 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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308

Tongari-kun

2003-2004
Fibreglass, steel and oil, acrylic and urethane paint.
702 x 350 x 350 cm. (276 x 138 x 138 in).
This work is unique from a series of four differently coloured works one of which is an artist's proof.

Estimate
£3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

18 Oct 2008, 7pm
London