A Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, has long been chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential individuals in the world today.
Born in Tokyo in 1963, he received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. He questioned the lines drawn between East and West, past and present, high art and popular culture. Not stopping with the production of artworks, he shocked the world with his entrepreneurial collaboration with Louis Vuitton, a French fashion designer, when he challenged the divide between art and commerce.
His work ranges from cartoony paintings to quasi-minimalist sculptures to giant inflatable balloons to performance events to factory-produced watches, T-shirts, and other products, many emblazoned with his signature character, Mr. DOB. He has had solo shows in Tokyo, New York, Boston and Paris, and his paintings, sculptures, and balloons are colourful and attractive, and accessible in their reference to lovable cartoon characters.
Murakami owes much of his success to the highly efficient art-making corporation in Tokyo as well as a studio in Brooklyn. At his company, he employs 25 assistants to perform specialized tasks, and he uses technology in pragmatic, laboursaving ways. Because his work features a number of recurring motifs—eyeballs, mushrooms, flowers—the company maintains an immense electronic archive of renderings that he can cut and paste into the files he’s working on. He may be the first artist to make paintings from his own portfolio of digital clip art.
Each creation begins as a sketch in one of numerous pocket-sized notebooks. Full-sized drawings are then scanned into the computer. From there, he “paints” his works in Adobe Illustrator, tweaking the composition and cycling through thousands of colours till he finally hands off the finished version to his assistants.
His staff then prints out the work on paper, silk-screens the outline onto canvas, and starts painting. Without this embrace of technology, he says, “I could have never produced this many works this efficiently, and the work wouldn’t be as intense.”
One of his paintings sold for up to $250,000 and at the New York’s Rockefeller Center Plaza stands a 28-feet-tall sculpture flanked by a phalanx of cartoon guards, happy flowers, and fanged mushrooms. The sculpture fetched the artist $1.5 million—a remarkable price for factory-produced art.