TIME magazine named Takashi Murakami one of the “100 Most Influential People” of 2008. Murakami was 46 at the time, and had already changed the face of both Japanese and Western art, had an exhibit in L.A. that attracted over 95,000 visitors and infused new life into Louis Vuitton.
After getting a PhD in Nihonga, the art of traditional Japanese painting, Murakami became disillusioned with the politics and limitations surrounding Nihonga and began to create his own style. He called his style Superflat, which creates depth using multiple layered images.
When comparing Murakami’s 21st century painting of Daruma, the father of Zen, to a 15th century painting of Daruma, it becomes apparent that, though his pieces are cutting edge, his traditional training has a great influence in his work.
Murakami has studios in Japan and New York, where he hires and mentors young artists. He says that it takes two to three years to train an artist to be able to perfect his superflat style. Murakami said he began using vivid colors when he was a university freshman, and an older student told him that he lacked a sense of color. The student bragged about her boyfriend’s ability for using strong colors. Murakami said that he found her comments were so hurtful, that he began to study the use of color.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Murakami’s family exposed him to both Japanese and Western art. His younger brother, Yuji, is also an artist. Murakami was also exposed to American pop, rock and film culture and, of course, to the Japanese comic book Manga style, which now has a global audience.
His dream was to become an animator, but thought he lacked skill, and enrolled in Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in order to improve his technique. He mastered technique, but could not go along with the rigidity of style and custom that has been part of the Nihonga art form in Japan since the late 19th century.
Murakami is steeped in both Japanese and American culture. He has created an album cover for Kanye West, and even walked alongside his float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Basically it’s that I’m a foreigner,” he told Interview magazine, “but I really love American culture. That’s why I come here—I’m always looking for ways to connect myself with American people and that American feeling. I’m trying to pick up on the feeling of places, like the Los Angeles feeling or the New York feeling.”
Murakami’s work has been shown at the Palace of Versailles, and is in the permanent collections of galleries and museums around the world. We are especially inspired by the technique and colors that he is able to bring to his lithographs, using the superflat style.