Takashi Murakami is a contemporary Japanese artist who works across painting, sculpture, prints, merchandise, and more, blurring the boundary between “high art” and commercial media. As one of the most recognizable names in contemporary art, his work regularly sets records at auction, appears in exhibitions, and can be found in countless collections worldwide.
Born in Tokyo, Murakami found early inspiration in the imagery of manga and anime. He attended Tokyo University of the Arts with the intention of pursuing animation but shifted his focus to nihonga (Japanese-style painting). In 1993, he received his PhD in Nihonga, but grew increasingly disenchanted with the political nature and isolated culture of the field. As he set out to develop his own contemporary style, his early works teemed with satire and social critique as he drew from imagery of popular media that so inspired him before college. In 1994, Murakami spent a year in New York City on a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council as part of the PS1 International Studio Program and sparked early interest among collectors in the United States and Europe. Two years later, he established his workshop Hiropon Factory, later incorporated as Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd. Throughout his writing and exhibitions around the turn of the 21st century, Murakami explored the aesthetics of postwar Japan and postmodern Japanese culture in the wake of the atomic bomb. The Superflat movement emerged from these explorations, weaving together the two-dimensional nature of manga, anime, and other Japanese fine and graphic arts with what he perceives as the “flattened” nature of consumer culture and taste. Murakami takes this flattening of “high art” and “low art” a step further through the commercialization of his own works through merchandise items like plush toys and clothing.