Monday, November 4, 2013

Brush strokes: Japan's answer to Andy Warhol

Meet Japan's answer to Andy Warhol. Born in the 60's, exactly when Warhol's art was flourishing stateside, Tokyo native Takashi Murakami is an artist, visionary, and business person extraordinaire.

Like the other contemporary artists that everyone loves to hate - Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Lady Gaga (yes, I just categorized her with them) - Murakami has succeeded at blurring the lines between art and business, 'high' art and 'low' art. And I love him for it.

Attended Tokyo University of the Arts, earned a Ph.D. in Nihonga - a very traditional Japanese form of painting - moved to New York where he made it big, blah blah blah.

Dipped his toes in art theory when he published his 'superflat' theory in 2000, which posits that the common thread throughout Japanese art history is flat, two-dimensional imagery that continues in manga and anime (and Murakami's work) today.

Threw himself into the business world when he launched the Hiropon Factory (sound familiar?), his production workshop, which was later (rather balls-ily) incorporated as Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd. Basically, Murakami acts as the director of the Hiropon Factory and Kaikai Kiki, where his assistants carry out painting, sculptural, animation and design work under his direction.


His signature style is the superflat style - hand painted works that don't betray a single brush stroke, and look as though they could have been printed by a machine.

And that famous Louis Vuitton pattern? That's his.


Murakami Versailles exhibition (2010) / via
Flower Ball (2002) / private collection / acrylic on canvas / via
100 meter long Arhat wall painting depicting the suffering of the Japanese people following the Fukushima disaster / Murakami-Ego exhibition / Al-Riwqaq, Doha (2012) / via
Murakami at Versailles (2010) / via

Artists have always created art through an atelier system, but it wasn't until the Pop Art revolution of the 60's that is became publicly acknowledged, as artists ramped up its proportions, and the debates surrounding it ramped up too.

Does it matter who 'produces' art? We acknowledge that most great masters had studios in which assistants painted and sculpted for them. How much ownership did they truly have of their work? Didn't they just affix their 'brand' to it just as Murakami does today?

at the MOCA Murakami website

and this fabulous interview that I found after I wrote this post.


  1. Another great Art lesson from you Jess - I always appreciate these.

    It's certainly a great question to ponder - does the artist need to be the visionary and the creator or is the vision strong enough to support this sort of production? As always, something to wrap my head around.

    1. It is - for better or worse - a question that can never really be answered, and never really goes away. But it certainly makes trips to art museums/galleries interesting!

    2. I was thinking of this when walking home today and had a couple of thoughts... architects don't get criticized (or at least I don't think they do) because they don't physically construct their masterpieces yet they get the credit for it however if you look at something like a dancer, his/her dance teacher or choreographer is often the visionary but it's the dancer as the performer that is celebrated more publicly. I suppose it's similar with actors and directors, athletes & coaches, etc, etc.



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