Takashi Murakami, ‘MPGMP, 1960->2012’, 2012, Phillips

Property of an Important European Collector

From the Catalogue:
MPGMP, 1960->2012 presents the iconic sensory deluge of brightly coloured impossibly intricate imagery that has canonised Takashi Murakami as one of the most celebrated artists of our time. Drawing inspiration from anime, manga, otaku, popular culture, as well as his PhD in nihonga, Murakami’s lionised works bridge tradition and the worlds of contemporary art, design, animation, fashion and contemporary culture. As the king of the vivid psychedelic style he coined “Superflat,” Murakami offers a captivating, meticulously-executed painting composed of countless stylised skulls rendered in multifarious, primarily red hues. Encapsulating the two-dimensional graphic style and “flattening” of high and low culture defining the artist’s notion of “Superflat,” MPGMP, 1960->2012 exemplifies key characteristics that have allowed the artist to reach deification in some circles for his ability to simultaneously straddle East and West, old and new, mainstream and subculture.

Though Murakami is known for his motley of Neo-pop characters and motifs, often described as “eye candy,” the present lot underscores a profound shift that occurred in his work after meeting his mentor, the Japanese Art Historian Nobuo Tsuji, in 2009. Since then, Murakami has imbedded a deeper engagement in his work with historical Japanese art that has fuelled both the artist’s prodigious imagination as well as ample critical interest. Embellished with a cascade of chromatic skulls, MPGMP, 1960->2012 details Murakami’s fascination with the highly decorative and patterned Rinpa style that originated from the Edo-period of artistic revival. Created in the year following the disastrous Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, the present lot furthermore evokes the Buddhist concept Shogyo mujo connoting the transience of life. “The expression “Shogyo mujo” is very important in Japanese culture,” explains Murakami, “but no one genuinely understands it. After these disasters, people finally understood it in all its brutality.” (Takashi Murakami quoted in Massimiliano Gioni, "Takashi Murakami: SUPERFLAT TO
SUPERNATURAL." Flash Art International, 45, no. 284, May 2012, p. 52-56)

Murakami’s fixation on skulls and preoccupation with the Buddhist concept of life’s ephemerality also extends to the western phenomenon of vanitas, a moralising still-life artwork that emerged in 17th-century Holland illustrating symbolic objects curated to remind viewers of their mortality. Like these memento mori, Murakami’s MPGMP, 1960->2012 features skulls to signify death and when seen from a distance, appears like a bed of wild flowers to further emphasise the fragility of life. In comparison to Andy Warhol’s Skulls (1976), the present lot shares Warhol’s use of vivid colours juxtaposed against macabre subject matter, a technique that evokes the curious entanglement of beauty and death inherent to the human condition. When placed next to Puppy (Vase) (1998), Murakami’s Shogyo mujo can moreover be compared to Jeff Koon’s immaculate white porcelain vase that nearly immortalises his signature West Highland Terrier as a stark contrast to the bundle of short-lived cut flowers that the work is meant for. Re-purposing elements from throughout art history and contemporary culture, Murakami’s hyper-colourful, anime-infused painting offers a master work by one of today’s most lauded artists.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated 'TAKASHI 2012' on the overlap

Galerie Perrotin, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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