Friday, March 16, 2007

Takashi Murakami : BIO

Takashi Murakami (村上隆 Murakami Takashi?, born 1 February 1962 in Tokyo) is a prolific contemporary Japanese artist. Murakami works in both fine arts media, such as painting; as well as digital and commercial media. He attempts to blur the boundaries between high and low art. He appropriates popular themes from mass media and pop culture, then turns them into thirty-foot sculptures, "Superflat" paintings, or marketable commercial goods such as figurines or phone caddies.

Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, where he attended the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. Murakami started as a student of more traditionalist Japanese art. He pursued a doctorate in Nihonga, a mixture of Western and Eastern styles dating back to the late 19th century. However, due to the mass popularity of anime and manga, Japanese styles of animation and comic graphic stories, Murakami became disillusioned with Nihonga, and became fixated on otaku culture. Otaku culture is most often an unfavorable reference to a “nerd” society, consisting of boys and girls that take an obsessive interest in either manga or anime. He felt that otaku culture was more representative of modern day Japanese life.

This resulted in Superflat, the style that Murakami is credited with starting. Superflat is a style developed from Poku,(Pop+otaku). Murakami has written that he aims to represent Poku culture because he expects that animation and otaku might create a new culture. This new culture being a rejuvenation of the contemporary Japanese art scene. This is what it is all about to Murakami; he has expressed in several interviews in the last five or six years the frustration that his art has risen from. It is a frustration rooted in the lack of a reliable and sustainable art market in post-war Japan, and the general view of Japanese art in and outside the country as having a low art status. He is quoted as saying that the market is nothing but " a shallow appropriation of Western trends". His first reaction was to make art in non-fine arts media, but decided instead to focus on the market sustainability of art and promote himself first overseas. This marks the birth of KaiKai Kiki, LLC.
KaiKai Kiki LLC
In 1996, Murakami founded the Hiropon factory. The factory was originally just a group of assistants that helped him to produce his sculptures and paintings. However, as new projects came in and the need for a dramatic increase in the volume of his work arose, the Hiropon factory gradually grew to a point in 2001, at the same time as his solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, into a professional art production and artist management organization. That same year he registered it as Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. Today it is an internationally recognized, large-scale art production and artist management corporation, employing over 100 people in the US and Japan. Kaikai Kiki LLC has two main objectives. The first is the successful marketing of Murakami’s work, and the second a supportive environment for the teaching and fostering of new young Japanese artists.
Murakami has been quoted many times as saying Bill Gates is one of his greatest influences. He has said that some of KaiKai Kiki’s success and efficiency can be attributed to ideas and practices Murakami gained after reading Gates’ Speed of Thought. “I set out to investigate the secret of market survivability- the universitality of characters such as Mickey Mouse, Sonic the Hedgehog, . . .” this is the thriving notion behind what has made Murakami so successful. Kaikai Kiki is not only involved with how can we best make a piece of art with high quality and concept, but with a system of checks and balances, supply and demand.
Art production at Kaikai Kiki, generally goes something like this. Murakami formulates an idea or sketch in any one of hundreds of pocket sized sketchbooks, then it is resketched in a larger notebook, from where it is scanned into Adobe Illustrator and this is the last phase that Murakami is directly involved with, his assistants then print out the full scale image, then silkscreen it onto canvas, and his assistants paint the canvas. In this fashion Murakami is able to produce a considerable oeuvre.
The second aim of Kaikai Kiki is artist management and nurturing of a large-scale rejuvenation of Japanese art. All of Murakami’s production assistants are artists that are taught by Murakami through the production process, but they are also provided with a forum and physical space, in which they can share their ideas and produce artwork. Many of these artists are currently exhibiting within Japan and internationally at recognized galleries. Most important in this endeavor, however, is the art fair that Kaikai Kiki puts on twice a year, GEISAI.
GEISAI is an open-application event, where artists or galleries rent booths to display their work. This is a one-day event where about 1,000 artists and a few galleries participate, and it draws professionals and enthusiasts alike from all over the world. GEISAI attracts television networks, magazines and other media to scout the emerging talent. While appealing to a progressive audience, GEISAI remains rooted in rich Japanese artistic tradition, and produces a unique art festival that while open to all remains strictly Japanese and hopes to renew and influence the next generation of Japanese artists.
As mentioned before Murakami’s style is called Superflat, a post-modern style characterized by flat planes of color and graphic images involving a character style derived from anime and manga. Superflat is an artistic style that comments on otaku lifestyle and subculture , as well as consumerism and sexual fetishism at large. Social commentary is nothing new, nor is appropriation of mass media or popular culture.
So what makes Takashi Murakami different from his predecessors, like Andy Warhol? Unlike Warhol who took low culture and repackaged it, selling it to the highest bidder in the “high-art” avant-garde of his day; Murakami takes low culture, repackages it, and makes it available to all in the form of paintings, sculptures, videos, T-shirts, key chains, mouse pads, plush dolls, cell phone caddies, and $5,000 limited-edition Louis Vuitton handbags. This is a comparable idea to Claes Oldenburg, who sold his own low art, high art pieces in his own store front in the 1960’s, but what makes Murakami different is his methods of production, and his work is not in one store front, but many ranging from toy stores, candy aisles, comic book stores, and the French design powerhouse of Louis Vuitton. Murakami’s style is truly an amalgam of his Western predecessors, looking back to Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and his Japanese predecessors and contemporaries, masters of anime and manga. He has successfully marketed himself to Western culture and he is bringing this success back to Japan in the form of Kaikai Kiki and GEISAI.
His signature and most infamous works are "Hiropon" and "My Lonesome Cowboy". "Hiropon" is a fiberglass sculpture of an anime-style female, taller than average, with gigantic breasts and wearing an undersized bikini top, which fails to cover her adequately. A stream of milk, which she is squeezing from her right nipple, wraps behind her to her left nipple being squeezed by her other hand, resembling a jump-rope. "My Lonesome Cowboy" is a similar sculpture of a nude male holding his penis as he ejaculates a stream of semen, which he guides with his other hand to swirl upward, resembling a lasso. "Hiropon" prompted Gainax producer Toshio Okada to dub Murakami the "Ota-king" after the character in his own Otaku no Video. Both pieces of work are comments on the immense rate of overly sexed anime, and are critiques on westernization.
Smooth Nightmare is an excellent example of a popular Murakami painting. The Superflat style is really obvious here. In this painting, there is one of Murakami’s reoccurring themes, the mushroom. The mushroom repetition is a good example of Murakami’s work’s connection with themes of the underground and alternative cultures. Murakami’s work is quoted as being among some of the most desired work in the world by ArtNews in November 2003. Chicago collector, Stefan Edis reportedly paid a record $567,500 for Murakami’s 1996 Miss ko2 , a life-size fiberglass cartoon figure, at Christie's last May. Christie’s owner, Francois Pinault, reportedly paid around $1.5 million in June to acquire Tongarikun (2003), a 30-foot tall fiberglass sculpture, and four accompanying fiberglass mushroom figures, that were part of an installation at Rockefeller Center.
However, Murakami is most recognized for his work with Marc Jacobs for the luxury fashion house, Louis Vuitton. He is the mastermind behind Louis Vuitton's Monogram Multicolore canvas range of handbags and accessories. Utilizing the monograms of the standard Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas, but in 33 different colors, on a white or a black background, instead of gold monograms on a brown background. He also inspired the "cherry blossom" logo in 2005; which can be found as smiling faces in pink and yellow flowers sporadically placed atop selected pieces, in Monogram Canvas by Louis Vuitton.

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