Perrotin is pleased to announce the second solo exhibition by Takashi Murakami in the gallery space in Shanghai. Following the artist's debut in mainland China in 2018, the show showcases a new cohesive body of work created in 2022 and 2023. It will feature iconic characters like Mr. DOB, Kaikai and Kiki, along with multiple variations of flower paintings that have become legendary in contemporary mass culture imagery.
Takashi Murakami's creative practice disrupted the established norms of the Japanese art scene by bringing together diverse sources, often seemingly contradictory. The artist united the realms of high fine art and popular culture, as well as aesthetics and techniques from different eras and styles. Murakami's fictional characters and vibrant visual narratives have permeated global contemporary visual culture and significantly influenced the position and identity of Japanese artists on the global art scene.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a large-scale painting titled 727 NYC. This artwork continues a recurring theme in Murakami's work, titled from 727 COSMETICS advertising signboard of a cosmetics company along the Tokaido Shinkansen railway line, with the number representing the founder's birthday. The artist associated this number to an American airliner, the Boeing 727. The first piece of the series was crafted in 1996 and is presently part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
As in his previous works, the composition centers around the cartoon-like character Mr. DOB originally created by Murakami in 1993 and consistently appearing in his extensive body of work. Drawing inspiration from the aesthetics of anime and game, Mr. DOB was conceived as an emblem of contemporary Japanese culture, offering a response to and reflection of how characters influenced popular culture across many aspects of life nowadays. The name Mr. DOB is derived from the Japanese slang "dobozite," which can be translated as "why?". This famous character is characterized by sharp teeth and large eyes, blending elements of both cuteness and eeriness, much like the ambiguous combination found throughout Murakami's practice.
With the number "727" displayed prominently on front and splashes of black graffiti in the background of the painting, this piece also pays homage to New York City, capturing the very essence of the city's underground spirit. The cloud carrying Mr. DOB is a nod to Shigisan Engi Emaki (lit. "Legend of Mount Shigi Emaki"), a painted handscroll dating back to the Heian period, that was created during the latter half of the 12th century.
The exhibition features a series of acrylic paintings showcasing Murakami's iconic flower motifs in various formats, shapes, and colors. Murakami's fascination with painting flowers can be traced back to his preparation for entrance exams at the Tokyo University of the Arts. For a period of time, creating floral images has become a daily ritual, forming a significant part of his artistic practice. Over the years, he has developed a distinctive visual language that blends elements of traditional Japanese floral paintings, contemporary pop culture references, and historical allusions. This fusion materializes in the form of colorful vivid flowers with human expressions, densely populating his paintings. Murakami’s flowers evoke a range of emotions, from cheerfulness to eeriness, from hope to sadness, and some serve as a reminder of dark moments in the history of modern Japan.
Another group of newly created series showcases bouquets of flowers arranged in traditional jars and vases, embellished with images of koi fishes. These flowers undergo a transformation, transitioning from cheerful, smiley faces to ones bearing teeth, creating a unique blend of cuteness that simultaneously exudes an element of danger and a darker undertone.
The group of three paintings in the exhibition portrays lucky cats in pixelated, old-fashioned digital aesthetics reminiscent of video games. Lucky cats, or maneki-neko ("beckoning cat"), hold great cultural significance in Japan. They are commonly believed to bring good luck to their owners and have a centuries-long history. The figurines of lucky cats are typically made from ceramic and have, in a way, become one of the symbols closely associated with Japanese culture. Now they can be found in many shops, restaurants, at entrances, and in unexpected places around the globe.
Né en 1962 à Tokyo, Japon
Habite et travaille à Tokyo, Japon
Takashi Murakami, who has a PhD in Nihonga painting, combines the most cutting-edge techniques with the precision and virtuosity of traditional Japanese art. Inspired by anime and character culture, his irresistible world is peopled by monstrous and charming characters alike, facetiously portrayed as descendants of past myths. His theory of Superflat aesthetic, which he introduced in 2001 with the trilogy exhibition he curated (the third part was titled “Little Boy,” a reference to the code name for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945), attempts to blur the boundaries between popular art and high art; Superflat movement has explored the evolution of Japan’s understanding of its post-Hiroshima social condition and the interrelationships between vanguard art, manga and anime, and their forerunner, Nihonga. The absence of perspective, the two-dimensionality of ancient Japanese art, filters into every medium. Since his first monographic exhibition outside Japan in 1995 at Perrotin, Murakami has achieved recognition as one of the most prominent contemporary artists of his time, and his work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at museums and art institutions throughout the world.