Takashi Murakami, Flower ball (3D), 2002 and Kaikai & Kiki, (2000). Image: Brian Forrest
Japanese maverick artist Takashi Murakami regularly expresses vast dissatisfaction at the lack of clout post-war Japanese art carries in the wider cultural world. But you certainly couldn’t accuse him of being an armchair critic. On the contrary Murakami has single-handedly devoted his relatively short career to rejuvenating Japan’s contemporary art scene and as a mark of his success the Geffen Contemporary at LA’s MOCA is currently hosting a retrospective of his work.
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Japan’s answer to Jeff Koons, Murakami uses popular mass media iconography as a starting point for his work. Otaku culture (references include anime and manga) is the primary pool from which the artist’s influence comes and more specifically ‘poku’ or ‘pop-Otaku’.
Working across a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, installation and film, Murakami’s portfolio makes for a monumental ensemble, covering over 35,000 square feet of exhibition space.
The retrospective spans the length and breadth of the artist’s short but prolific career. From the sculptural figures of the late 1990s - Miss Ko2, Hiropon and The Lonesome Cowboy - to the popular commercial collectibles, displayed on shelves like shop archives, as well as two vast more recent works: 'Reverse Double Helix', an installation consisting of five Buddhist deities; and the 2007 work, 'Oval Buddha', an 18 and a half foot platinum-leafed sculpture, atop a lotus-leaf pedestal, balanced on an elephant.
Perhaps the most exciting revelation, however, springs from Murakami’s celebrated collaboration with Louis Vuitton in the form of an exclusive temporary store opening within the exhibition. Spotted by Creative Director of Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, in 2002, Murakami collaborated on the label’s Spring Summer ’03 collection, injecting a splash of colour (33 in total) to the historic Monogram. In celebration of the exhibition, the artist has designed an exclusive range of limited edition products, including a bold reinterpretation of the Neverful bag with a cartoon LV Hands print on the front matched by a coordinating colour lining.