Takashi Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, and received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he was trained in the school of traditional Japanese painting known as Nihonga, a nineteenth-century mixture of Western and Eastern styles. However, the prevailing popularity of anime (animation) and manga (comic books) directed his interest toward the art of animation because, as he has said, “it was more representative of modern day Japanese life.”
He founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki Co., a large-scale art production and art management corporation. In addition to the production and marketing of Murakami's work, Kaikai Kiki Co. functions as a supportive environment for the fostering of young Japanese artists. Murakami is also a curator, entrepreneur, and a critical observer of contemporary Japanese society. In 2000, he organized a paradigmatic exhibition of Japanese art titled Superflat, which traced the origins of contemporary Japanese visual pop culture to historical Japanese art. He has continued this work in subsequent impactful exhibitions such as Coloriage (Fondation Cartier pour l'art Contemporain, Paris, 2002) and Little Boy: The Art of Japan's Exploding Subcultures (Japan Society, New York, 2005).
Murakami's style, called Superflat, is characterized by flat planes of color and graphic images involving a character style derived from anime and manga. Superflat is an artistic style that comments on otaku lifestyle and subculture, as well as consumerism and sexual fetishism.
In addition to producing art works for exhibition in galleries and museums, KaiKai Kiki is responsible for the design of an enormous range of collectibles, multiples, and commercial products featuring Murakami's signature images: vinyl figurines, plush toys, keychains, t-shirts, posters, signed limited edition lithographs, silkscreen prints and more.
With studios and teams of assistants in Tokyo and New York producing his paintings, sculptures, environmental installations, prints, multiples, drawings, media works, and popular merchandise, Murakami has drawn comparisons with Andy Warhol. His expert melding of the popular with the time-honored has resulted in this humorous and celebratory representation of the past, present, and future of Japanese art.
Murakami's work has been shown extensively in group exhibitions around the world, and in one-person exhibitions at leading institutions such as Fondation Cartier pour l'art Contemporain, Paris and the Serpentine Gallery, London (2002); Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2001; Museum of Fine Arts), Boston (2001).
Exhibition by Takashi Murakami - Château de Versailles, Paris (14 September - 12 December 2010):
“For a Japanese like me, the Château de Versailles is one of the greatest symbols of Western history. It is the emblem of an ambition for elegance, sophistication and art that most of us can only dream of.
Of course, we are aware that the spark that set fire to the powder of the Revolution came directly from the centre of the building.
But, in many respects, everything is transmitted to us as a fantastic tale coming from a very distant kingdom. Just as French people can find it hard to recreate in their minds an accurate image of the Samurai period, the history of this palace has become diminished for us in reality.
So it is probable that the Versailles of my imagination corresponds to an exaggeration and a transformation in my mind so that it has become a kind of completely separate and unreal world. That is what I have tried to depict in this exhibition.
I am the Cheshire cat that welcomes Alice in Wonderland with its diabolic smile, and chatters away as she wanders around the Château.
With a broad smile I invite you all to discover the wonderland of Versailles.”