TAKASHI MURAKAMI: Superflat Museum
Closing Date17 January 2020
This week's Black Friday Focus will investigate Takashi Murakami's SUPERFLAT MUSEUM, a set of ten miniature vinyl figurines featuring his most popular sculptures. They are on view in "By/Buy Me," our current exhibition curated by David Platzker. The show runs through 25 January.
Trained as a classical Japanese painter, Murakami synthesizes a variety of influences—from manga comics, Pop Art, and traditional painting styles (like nihonga, popular in nineteenth-century Japan)—to evaluate contemporary visual culture and commercial consumption. He uses his art to put forth his theory of "superflat," which led to an art movement of the same name in the early 2000s. In choosing this moniker, Murakami highlights the seamless division between art, craft, and production in Japan, calling the separation between the three flattened. Furthermore, he underscores the formal flatness characteristic of Japanese manga and Pop Art. In his paintings, the artist tries to make the painting smooth and flat, typical of nihonga painting techniques and of mass-produced works. Murakami deploys these aesthetic approaches to call attention to the shallow perception of Japanese consumer pop culture by the West, especially in the aftermath of World War II— the artist suggests that it is a flattened perspective without complexity.
With these concepts in mind, Murakami uses his SUPERFLAT MUSEUM to investigate the elusive value between his large-scale institutional pieces and the toy figures marketed for sale in cardboard boxes. To Murakami, the difference is irrelevant—his Japanese studio, Kaikai Kiki, functions much like a factory, with its industrial setting in suburban Tokyo and his studio assistants punching time cards for work. Murakami ultimately uses these figurines to question the dichotomy between high-brow and low-brow consumption of his art, a discord that exists beyond the confines of his native Japan in the international art scene. Jointly, the artist’s collection of figurines illuminates the dynamics and differing value systems between Eastern and Western cultures—he suggests that perhaps these factory-made figures, packaged in cardboard, are not so dissimilar to his prized sculptures on view in museums and galleries.