Takashi Murakami is a Japanese multimedia artist born in 1962. He creates paintings sculptures, films, and objects that derive inspiration from ranging influences including traditional Japanese painting, anime, sci-fi, and contemporary pop culture. He earned his PhD from Tokyo University of the Arts, where he studied nihonga, traditional Japanese painting. He describes his work as “Superflat,” a term he uses to embody the aesthetics of Japanese artistic tradition as well as the essence of Japanese post-war culture and society.
He has created a universe of recurring characters and motifs, combining aspects of Japanese, European, and American cartoons. These include smiling flowers, lions, cats, and bears. Some of these personalities have been explained as conceptual animated self-portraits of the artist. Though these images are unique, they also make direct references to art history and some are even modern interpretations of classic Japanese works. These symbols and colourful icons may on the surface seem simply cheerful—but in reality, they also subtly reflect complex themes and the implications of fantasy, technology, and even violence. Murakami has blurred the boundaries between high art and low art, combining aspects of classical fine art, such as painting and sculpture, with commercial objects such as fashion, toys, and merchandise. He established the Hiropon Factory, his own workshop and studio that is now an art production company.
Murakami’s work also comprises mass-produced items including keychains and t-shirts that feature his prototypical visual motifs. He has since collaborated with powerhouse clothing brands on both the accessible and luxury markets, including Uniqlo, Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, which has further expanded his universe. Murakami’s merging of different art historical periods, mediums, and subject matter echo his blurring of boundaries between the gallery, studio, media, and commercial spaces—proving not only are these spaces not isolated, but that they can efficiently coexist.