Japanese artist Takashi Murakami was born in Tokyo and received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. One of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking Japanese artists, his work ranges from cartoony paintings and prints, to quasi-minimalist sculptures such as Inochi, to giant inflatable balloons, to performance events to factory-produced watches and T-shirts. Many know Takashi Murakami for making a $2.6 million diamond-encrusted coup with Pharrell Williams and producing album covers for Kanye West. He has also collaborated with Louis Vuitton to produce best-selling handbags which are owned by Elizabeth Hurley and Reese Witherspoon.
Takashi Murakami’s art encompasses a wide range of mediums and his work has been noted for its use of colour, incorporation of motifs from Japanese traditional and popular culture, flat/glossy surfaces, and content that could be described at once as ‘cute,’ ‘psychedelic,’ or ‘satirical’. Among his most famous recurring motifs are smiling flowers, iconic characters, mushrooms, skulls, Buddhist iconography, and the sexual complexes of otaku culture. Takashi Murakami has also created his own pop icon, ‘Mr. DOB,’ which has developed into a form of self-portraiture, the first of several endlessly morphing and recurring motifs seen throughout his work.
In addition to his work as an artist, Takashi Murakami is a curator, entrepreneur, and a student of contemporary Japanese society. In 2000, Murakami curated an exhibition of Japanese art titled Superflat, which acknowledged a movement toward mass-produced entertainment and its effects on contemporary aesthetics. Murakami has also set up his own art production company called Kaikai Kiki through which he manages the careers of several younger artists and organises the biannual art fair GEISAI.
In 2002, at the invitation of designer Marc Jacobs, Murakami began his long-lasting collaboration with the fashion brand Louis Vuitton. He began by contributing artwork which was used in the design of a series of handbags. The series re-envisioned the fashion house’s signature monogram and was a huge commercial success. Though he had previously collaborated with fashion designers such as Issey Miyake Men by Naoki Takizawa, his work with Louis Vuitton won him widespread fame and notoriety as an artist who blurs the line between ‘high art’ and commercialism. It also elevated him to celebrity status in his home country of Japan.
In November, 2003, ArtNews reported Takashi Murakami ‘s work as being among the most desired in the world. Hiropon, a life-sized satirical sculpture of an anime character with gigantic lactating breasts, sold for $427,500 at Christie’s auction house in May, 2002. One year later a second sculpture, Miss Ko2, sold for $567,500. His work has continued to rise in value and in May 2008, My Lonesome Cowboy, an anime-inspired sculpture of a masturbating boy, sold for $15.2 million at Sotheby’s. In 2008, Takashi Murakami was named one of Time Magazine‘s ‘100 Most Influential People’, the only visual artist included. Murakami also came in at 17 in Art Review’s 2009 Power 100 and is a regular each year on the list.
Takashi Murakami’s work has been exhibited in prestigious museums all over the world, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gagosian Gallery, London and Rome, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. In September, 2010 Takashi Murakami became the third contemporary artist, and first Japanese artist, to exhibit his works at the Palace of Versailles in France filling 15 rooms and the park with his sculptures, paintings, a decorative carpet, and lamps.