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LA: Takashi Murakami at MOCA

Takashi Murakami

For decades, the animation art form has been shunned by the mainstream art establishment, but it seems as if we are slowly witnessing a shift in sentiment towards the treatment of animation as art. The evidence can be found in the increasing number of animation-related exhibits at major galleries and institutions. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve linked to the online exhibit “Animated” put on by the Australian National Portrait Gallery and the “Animated Painting” show at the San Diego Museum of Art.

Now folks in Los Angeles also have the opportunity to see a cartoon-related show that opened a few weeks ago at the MOCA Geffen in downtown LA. Titled “© MURAKAMI”, it is a retrospective of the work of Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami, whose paintings, sculptures and installations all use a strong cartoon idiom. The exhibition also includes a preview of Murakami’s first major animated work, a highly stylized CG film called kaikai and kiki. If you can’t make it to the show, there’s a 330-page exhibition catalogue which can be purchased on Amazon. The MOCA website also has an artist-guided video tour of the show, as well as other video clips including a trailer for his animated film.

(Thanks, Chansoo Kim)

  • zoe

    Anyone else ever get a little ticked off at the resemblance of Murakami’s character (above) to Cheburashka?

  • Well it looks a little like that.
    It would be easy to appropriate the image without knowing.

    I have seen Chebarushka only once – the Eels played an entire half hour episode before their concert in Melbourne….

  • Jesse H.

    zoe: If there wasn’t a resemblance in his style as a whole his artistic foundation as an artist would crumble. Anything less than appropriation would undermine his whole venture with these works.

    As I recall, wasn’t there a bit of a stink raised over Murakami’s Little Boy exhibition? Something similiar to the “Jim Davis machine” or “late Edison industry”, in that his name is stamped on the work of a corps of artists working underneath the Murakami umbrella. This could be completely off-base or overblown, though.

  • Paul N

    Saw some of his work at the S.F. MOMA a few years back.

  • It’s a really great show, I recommend that you don’t miss it. Go early, there’s usually a big line to get inside.

  • in that his name is stamped on the work of a corps of artists working underneath the Murakami
    That’s not really correct. He does employ a huge team of assistants (like 100 of them!) similar to an animation/film production team. It’s no big scandal or secret, I was even reading an article detailing their roles in an some art magazine the other day.

  • True, it’s not a secret that he has a load of assistants on whose work his name is stamped, and I believe they are paid, but from what what I understand they tend to all be aspiring artists who work for a pittance in the hope that they can break into the fine art world through it, so I do kind of feel like they are exploited.

    The website of his little art collective / factory, which is called Kaikai Kiki, is here: http://www.kaikaikiki.co.jp/

    Also, his whole philosophy strikes me as very cynical, he said that starting as an artist he decided to begin with a business plan rather than an artistic criteria. So he promoted himself in NY emphasizing his Japanese context to build attention, then returned to Japan to make loads of money as the guy who’s big in New York. And rather than make one artistic object, he has his collective make several, so that a particular work can be sold and resold at a huge profit, while still not technically being ‘mass-produced.’ When I was at the Mori Tower in Roppongi last summer, a huge mini city built by ultracapitalist billionaire Matsumoto Mori, their little commercial art gallery at the top features postcards of a Murakami painting of Mori Tower. It was so hollow, really. A painter friend of mine who loathes him once said he’s really evil in a really interesting way.

    All that said, he has been a huge influce on Studio 4ºC, who made the amazing films Mind Game and Tekkon Kinkreet, so he’s not all bad.

  • At the risk of sounding like a slacker journalist, falling back on the obvious comparison – Murakami is a lot like Warhol, and all that that implies. His work methods are comprable, his Factory structure and orbiting gaggle of artists is comprable, his relationship with commerce is comparable – as his his relationship to the post modern. So really any conversation about his methods is going to be as personal and objective as any conversation about Warhols, who love him or hate him has remained an open and unresolved argument for decades.

    Personally, I think Murakami is one of the most important artists and thinkers of our time, regards the corner of culture into which animation fits – but I couldn’t really tell you in a polite comments section what I think of Warhol! But that’s just me.

  • Another great thing about Murakami is that the english texts, interviews and essays in his books/catalogues are a really an invaluable insight into japanese otakuism, moé, and other animation culture related issues.

  • Jenny

    Isn’t he trying to satirize anime culture rather than paying tribute to it? that’s what I heard: how anime objectifies women and such

  • Dock Miles

    Does this make Kanye West’s Graduation the “Velvet Underground” debut album of our time?

  • Isn’t he trying to satirize anime culture rather than paying tribute to it? that’s what I heard: how anime objectifies women and such
    What he’s doing is nowhere near as simplistic as that.

  • Hmm that wasn’t very helpful! :) His art is all about Otakuism, but it’s not really ‘satire’ of it, more of a general deconstruction; some critique but also a respect for it. He has described himself as a “failed otaku”.

  • Derek Hayes

    You can go back a whole lot further if you want to find artists with studio assistants, it is a venerable tradition and many assistants went on to be well known in their own right. It is said that El Greco worked as an assistant to Titian; Raphael was a pupil and assistant to Perugino who was himself taught by Piero della Francesca. It doesn’t have to mean an exploitative relationship.
    As for animation being shunned by the mainstream art establishment, South Africa’s most famous artist, William Kentridge, is an animator who has shown all over the world including The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.