Takashi Murakami is world renowned Japanese artist, famous for coining the term Superflat, that came to describe the artistic movement his work belongs to which draws upon traditional forms of Japanese art alongside Anime and Manga.
When Takashi Murakami invented the term “Superflat” he used it as a multiple description referring to the use of flattened and compressed forms in Japanese art, the two-dimensional nature of Japanese animation and graphics and the “shallow emptiness of Japanese consumer culture” in the post-war era. The term was first used by Murakami in a manifesto produced for the three-part exhibition Superflat, that toured America and Europe and introduced the Western art world to this new Japanese art movement. Murakami also held his first major retrospective in France in the Palace of Versailles, filling fifteen rooms with his artworks.
Murakami has been compared to Andy Warhol in that he embraces mass production methods and manipulation of media and popular images. His work however should not be reduced to this comparison; his pieces utilize traditional Japanese techniques such as printmaking and painting and combine them with visuals drawn from anime and manga resulting in pieces that distinctly embody Japan, whilst Warhol’s is indicative of Western consumer culture.
Murakami’s art attempts to criticize modern consumerist society and to increase awareness of the manipulation of society by the media. Much of his work therefore offers parodies and social satire of popular Japanese culture, although recently he is better known for his design work with the fashion house Louis Vuitton. He viewed this partnership as an opportunity to challenge the divide between commerce and art, this was demonstrated in 2009 when he collaborated with Louis Vuitton to create the first designer QR code, thus blurring the distinction between functionality and art.
It is his artworks though that are the most evocative and which try to rethink classical Japanese themes and techniques within a contemporary landscape. His bold and colourful images are both eye-catching and striking and occasionally shocking. Although as his work now sells for millions of pounds the question is being posed does his work still criticize consumer culture or has he become trapped within the system he set out to critique?