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Arts / Museums

Japanese Pop Art Star Brings His Celebrity-Beloved Streetwear Cred to Fort Worth

This is a Museum Coup That Kanye Could Appreciate

BY // 06.25.18

In a major coup for The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami brings his three-decade retrospective to town this summer.

Murakami is known for his anime-style Pop-art paintings, “superflat” movement, and collabs with pop culture and fashion superstars Kanye West, Louis Vuitton, Uniqlo, Vans, and Pharrell Williams.

Curated by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, “Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg” showcases 50 works that illustrate his passion for fusing high and low artistic elements.

The exhibition’s curator, MCA Chicago chief curator Michael Darling, reveals his top pick of Murakami moments.

Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs.
When Murakami came out with this collaboration in 2002, it was seen as heresy within the art world — a sellout of the exclusivity that rules art, for the commercialism of the fashion world.

But the products proved wildly successful, both commercially and artistically, and he can now be seen to be ahead of the curve of artists seeking wider exposure by joining forces with other cultural spheres.

Murakami x Virgil Abloh.
This collaborative exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in London in early 2018 showed the power of the streetwear movement, with lines around the block to attend what are usually staid and quiet exhibitions in this tony neighborhood of London.

The two creators made paintings, sculptures, and limited edition T-shirts that combined their respective motifs and logos, driving collectors at all levels of the spectrum crazy.

Murakami x Kanye West.
Murakami did music videos and graphic-design work for Kanye West’s Graduation album in 2007, bringing fine-art cred to Kanye and introducing music audiences to Murakami’s artwork, in most cases, for the first time.

“Superflat.”
In 2000, Murakami curated an exhibition at the Parco department store in Tokyo called “Superflat” that sought to define and explain a cultural phenomenon of post-war Japan.

The complexities and scope of this concept, which stands for the flattening of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs and the flattening of distinctions between high and low culture, among many other meanings, has made it a term with popular and scholarly traction.

An expanded version of the exhibition toured the U.S. in 2001, popularizing his concept, as well as the art of peers, which gave his own work important context.

Complexcon.
In 2016, Murakami was named the artistic director of Complexcon, the inaugural convention for streetwear and hip-hop followers in Long Beach, California.

The event was a giant success, drawing more than 30,000 visitors over one weekend. It proved the sophistication of a huge new audience of cultural consumers, who can easily move between art, fashion, streetwear, and music, and cemented Murakami’s status as a voice for this crossover.

My Lonesome Cowboy.
In 2008, Murakami’s sculpture of a naked fully aroused anime boy set an auction record for the artist when it sold for $13.5 million, showing he was a force to be reckoned with in the upper echelons of the art market.

The 500 Arhats.
In 2012, Murakami made an audacious 300-foot-long painting called The 500 Arhats in response to the earthquake and tsunami that hit the eastern coast of Japan in 2011. The subject riffed on historical precedent and introduced 500 new characters into his work, which he continues to draw upon today.

The painting was first shown in Qatar but made its way to Tokyo and was put on view at the Mori Art Museum in 2015 — breaking that museum’s attendance records and reintroducing his work to the Japanese public for the first time in more than a decade.

“Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” is on view through September 16, at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

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