The Vancouver Art Gallery is pleased to present Takashi Murakami at Vancouver Art Gallry, Fabruary 2018. The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is a major retrospective of Takashi Murakami’s paintings, presenting more than fifty works spanning three decades of the artist’s career. The first survey of Murakami’s work to be shown in Canada, this exhibition showcases the artist’s paintings from his earliest mature work to his recent large-scale projects, including a newly created five-metre-tall sculpture and three multi-panel paintings created specially for the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition. This critical survey reveals the consistent themes and profound engagement with history that have guided Murakami’s practice. The paintings and sculptures in this exhibition highlight a dedication to craftsmanship and a boundless imagination moving freely within an ever-expanding field of aesthetic decisions and cultural inspirations, from Buddhist folk traditions to art history to popular culture.
Murakami’s paintings from the early 1980s synthesize traditional painting techniques and formats with contemporary subject matter. Trained in the Nihonga style of Japanese painting, which uses mineral pigments for vivid colours and meticulous craftsmanship, Murakami melded traditional materials and aesthetics with contemporary subjects including the dangers of nuclear power and global consumerism.
Murakami’s negotiation of traditional and contemporary aesthetics in both Japanese and American culture moved into new territory in the late 1990s with the development of his distinctive “Superflat” concept. Both a style and an ethos, Superflat addresses the cultural attributes of post-World War II Japan, in particular the popular image of Japan as a producer of saccharine consumer products such as Hello Kitty. Within a Superflat world, the otaku—an obsessive manga, anime or tech geek—becomes a driver of contemporary culture. These theories significantly influenced Murakami’s output from this period, which employed highly refined classical Japanese painting techniques to depict a supercharged mix of Pop, anime and manga content within a flattened representational picture plane.
This distinctive style has yielded some of Murakami’s most popular and recognizable forms, including Mr. DOB, a mouse-like character that serves as part ambassador, part self-portrait. Mr. DOB has paved the way for other characters throughout the artist’s career, with a palette of signature motifs—anime eyes, jagged teeth, rounded letterforms. Demonstrating the fluidity of his Superflat concept, these figures become visual skins that spread over and occupy any imaginable surface, from paintings, sculptures and wallpaper to plush toys, stickers and other consumer products. Furthermore, Murakami considers his collaborations as “disruptions” to the expectations of a highly stratified art world system that prizes exclusivity and elitism.
After locating himself at the centre of luxury and celebrity cultures, Murakami began to depart from the commercial, cartoon-inspired aesthetic that garnered him popular acclaim. Deeply affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan, the artist returned to his training in the classics to find an appropriate response. His research into Buddhist iconography lead to his monumental representation of the Arhats (Buddhist monks) who roamed the land in an attempt to console and enlighten others. This fuelled an ongoing body of paintings depicting an eccentric and highly individualized group of Arhats with elements of both historical and contemporary Japanese and Buddhist culture.
Takashi Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, Japan. He studied at Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan, (formerly, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music), where he received his BFA in 1986, his MFA in 1988, and his Ph.D. in 1993. He founded the Hiropon Factory in Tokyo in 1996, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki, an art production and art management corporation. In addition to the production and marketing of Murakami’s art and related work, Kaikai Kiki functions as a supportive environment for the fostering of emerging artists.
Murakami’s works have been exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions. Recent major museum exhibitions include Summon monsters? Open the door? Heal? Or die?, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2001); Takashi Murakami: Made in Japan, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2001); Kaikai Kiki: Takashi Murakami, Foundation Cartier pour l‘art contemporain, Paris (2002; travelled to Serpentine Gallery, London); ©MURAKAMI, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007; travelled to Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; and Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao through 2009); Takashi Murakami Versailles, Château de Versailles, France (2010); Murakami: Ego, Qatar Museums Authority, Qatar (2012); Arhat Cycle, Palazzo Reale, Milan (2014); Murakami: The 500 Arhats, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2015); Murakami by Murakami, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (2017); and Takashi Murakami: Under the Radiation Falls, Garage Museum of Contemporary, Moscow, Russia (2017).
Takashi Murakami currently lives and works in Tokyo and New York City.
Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and curated by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator
ABOUT THE VANCOUVER ART GALLERY
Founded in 1931, the Vancouver Art Gallery is recognized as one of the most respected and innovative visual arts institutions in Canada and is committed to strengthening ties between artists and diverse communities throughout the city, province, and beyond. As the largest public art museum in Western Canada, the Gallery features contemporary and historical exhibitions all year round, and provides a global platform for British Columbia’s
dynamic artistic community, including the work of First Nations as well as art of the Asian Pacific artists. Its growing collection of over 12,000 artworks represents the most comprehensive resource for art in British Columbia and is the principal repository for visual art produced in the region, as well as related works by other notable Canadian and international artists.
The Vancouver Art Gallery is a not-for-profit organization supported by its members, individual donors, corporate funders, foundations, the City of Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
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