Takashi Murakami, ‘Vapor Trail’, 2007, Martin Lawrence Galleries

A 2002 work titled Kawaii! Vacances d'ete (Cute! Summer Vacation) is described by Schimmel as "a heroically scaled six-panel painting that is in some ways a counterpart to Super Nova. Kawaii is the Japanese word for "cute." As is well known, cuteness has become a lucrative commodity in Japan, as exemplified most famously by the Hello Kitty phenomenon. Murakami has analyzed cuteness with the rigor of a professional trend-spotter to produce a multitude of works that embody its aesthetic" (consider Vapor Trail, Surprise, Kaikai Kiki and Planet 66 images). If Super Nova presents a post-apocalyptic vision with a menacing mushroom at its center, the focal point of Kawaii! is a band of flowers that runs across the entire length of the work against a blue sky. Murakami described the world represented here as his "heaven": "I really love Japanese summer. It's a summer image - blue sky. It's kind of a Buddhist offering during the summer equinox."

Image rights: Martin Lawrence Galleries

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