As a child, Takashi dreamed about drawing cartoons being inspired by the most influential cartoon companies at the time – Walt Disney and Lucasfilm. Today he works in both fine arts media, such as painting, as well as digital and commercial media and is often being referred to as “the Japanese Andy Warhol”. Takashi is the only visual artist who has been included in “Time’s 100 most influential people” list for 2008.
Takashi’s style – “Superflat” – is a blend between low art and high art, approaching themes from mass media and pop culture and turning them into thirty-foot sculptures or other various commercial goods. It is often characterized by flat planes of color and graphic images representing an anime or manga character style. The artist stated he was inspired by the philosophical concept that Japan is set on a flat surface where everything is blended – culture, work, entertainment, and family thus he has brought it up in his artistic style.
In an interview on the way Murakami mixes art with branding and merchandising, the artist replied: “I don’t think of it as straddling. I think of it as changing the line. What I’ve been talking about for years is how in Japan, that line is less defined. Both by the culture and by the post-War economic situation. Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of ‘high art.’ In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that’s okay—I’m ready with my hard hat.” One of the best examples of Takashi’s Superflat style is his famous painting “Smooth Nightmare” that exhibits one of his recurring motifs of the mushroom:
Following the example of Warhol, Murakami owns his own corporation “Kaikai Kiki”, that produces mostly everything from “high-art” sculptures and paintings to T-shirts, mouse pads, plush dolls and even $5,000 limited-edition Louis Vuitton handbags. A large number of talented artists work for him, that strictly follow the tradition of otaku (one of the main characteristics of Takashi’s artistic style, and it is a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests especially towards anime, manga or video games). In the beginning of his career, Takashi has mostly paid attention to marketing research, stating that this is utmost important for starting this kind of business if one wants to be successful. He has proven it himself by selling one if his most favorite sculptures – Mr. Pointy to Francois Pinault that reportedly paid Takashi around $1.5 million for it.
What sets Takashi apart from the classic pop-art culture is the fact that his work is oriented towards the smallest market niches. Today Takashi Murakami is believed to be one of the most desired artists in the world, his works being sold with incredible prices and exhibited in some of the biggest and most famous places. One of his greatest exhibits took place in September 2010 at Palace of Versailles in Paris, filling 15 rooms with his sculptures and paintings. He is also a role model for many other artists that follow the same ideas and styles.
And Then, And Then And Then And Then And Then (Blue) (1996)
Miss ko2 (Project ko2) (1997)
Tan Tan Bo Puking – a.k.a Gero Tan (2002)
Reversed Double Helix (2003)
I open wide my eyes but see no scenery. I fix my gaze upon my heart (2007)