Takashi Murakami, ‘Jellyfish Eyes - Black, 5’, 2004, Sotheby's: Contemporary Art Day Auction

From the Catalogue

"The great number of eyes on the piece [Jellyfish Eyes, 2001] gives the impression that those living eyes are looking at the viewer who is himself looking at the work from different angles. If we connected all those eyes to a video camera or a computer, then on the control screen, we would be able to visualize a reality that is completely different from that of single-point perspective. And that is no doubt the reality of our time." —Takashi Murakami

In fusing pre-modern Japanese tradition with the pervasive culture of manga and sub-culture of otaku, Takashi Murakami confronts Japan’s cultural identity following the aftermath of the Second World War. The literal and metaphoric ‘flattening’ of Japanese culture – heralded by the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and stymied by the dominance of American and Western surveillance and influence thereafter – is confronted by Murakami with an oeuvre idiosyncratically united by the conceptual umbrella philosophy of the ‘Superflat’. As the artist has emphatically laid down in the ‘Superflat Manifesto’: “Super flatness is an original concept of the Japanese, who have been completely Westernized" (Takashi Murakami, Superflat Trilogy, Tokyo 2000, p. 155). Having forged an aesthetic grounded in the special effects of animé and manga, a visual sub-culture that reactively emerged following the proliferation of Americana in Japan, Murakami presents a fine-art lexicon for the culturally dislocated Japanese generation nurtured by the US political custody after World War II. As hinted at by the Pop infused interlace of innocuously cute flowers, Murakami incorporates the child-like innocence of Japanese pop-culture with the violent erasure of cultural and political identity in the nuclear fall-out of the atomic bomb.

A household name in Japan and beyond, Murakami has successfully penetrated the enclosed worlds of traditional Japanese fine art and contemporary art with spectacular success. Throughout his career he has constructed a distinctive artistic practice that not only integrates high art and consumer culture, but independently operates both within and outside the cusp of both worlds. During his doctorate at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music in 1989, Murakami received solid training in Nihonga, a traditional style of Japanese painting, and in his works the artist often borrows from traditional Japanese compositional and material techniques. Examples include what he calls Hokusai’s “zooming in” method, as well as the “aggressiveness” he believes to come from the Japanese Momoyama period.

Crucial to Murakami’s Superflat lexicon and his entire artistic enterprise are his ubiquitous smiling flowers, jellyfish eyes: first appearing on small-scaled canvases in 1995, the artist’s trademark flower motif has since expanded into a dizzying array of media and contexts, from museums to films to Louis Vuitton handbags. Bridging high art and mass culture and the traditional and the contemporary on an unprecedented scale, Murakami’s legendary oeuvre opened up a new critical perspective and carved out a unique niche within the international contemporary art world.

Courtesy of Sotheby's

Signature: signed and dated 04 on the reverse

Los Angeles, Blum & Poe, Inochi, May - June 2004

Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Private Collection, Pasadena
Private Collection

About Takashi Murakami

One of the most acclaimed artists to emerge from postwar Asia, Takashi Murakami—“the Warhol of Japan”—is known for his contemporary Pop synthesis of fine art and popular culture, particularly his use of a boldly graphic and colorful anime and manga cartoon style. Murakami became famous in the 1990s for his “Superflat” theory and for organizing the paradigmatic exhibition of that title, which linked the origins of contemporary Japanese visual culture to historical Japanese art. His output includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, animations, and collaborations with brands such as Louis Vuitton. “Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of “high art’,” Murakami says. “In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that’s okay—I’m ready with my hard hat.”

Japanese, b. 1962, Tokyo, Japan, based in Tokyo, Japan