The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

LV Cerises

This is the limited edition Cerises collection for Louis Vuitton designed by Takashi Murakami.

It was a very special collection that was a collaboration between the contemporary artist Murakami and LV Creative Director Marc Jacobs.

Takashi Murakami
Takashi Murakami

It was launched in the spring of 2005, the first time we visited Paris 🙂 Such an important event had to be celebrated in style!

Paris, April 2005, Champs-Élysées
Paris, April 2005, Champs-Élysées

A remarkable number of the cherry bags, and some scarves for good measure, found their way to our place…

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

This one doesn’t have any cherries, let’s draw some on it!

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Not satisfied with just the cherry bags, we got the display cherries too! If nothing else, they distract Isabelle from any drawing activities 🙂

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Seriously, they were display cherries in the LV shop!

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Murakami began his long-lasting collaboration with the fashion brand Louis Vuitton in 2002 at the invitation of designer Marc Jacobs. It was also a particularly savvy business move to use a cult Japanese artist, as an astonishing 94 per cent of Tokyo women in their twenties own at least one Louis Vuitton bag – and are always on the lookout to buy another!

Takashi Murakami injected a shot of youthfulness and color into Louis Vuitton when he began collaborating with the design house. He began by contributing artwork which was used in the design of a series of handbags. The series re-envisioned the fashion house’s signature monogram and was a huge commercial success. Though he had previously collaborated with fashion designers such as Issey Miyake Men by Naoki Takizawa, his work with Louis Vuitton won him widespread fame and notoriety as an artist who blurs the line between ‘high art’ and commercialism. It also elevated him to celebrity status in his home country of Japan. And likely increased LV sales even more.

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

In 2009, 6 years after the beginning of the collaboration, Louis Vuitton celebrated spring with the release of a colorful new design for small items, called Multicolore Spring Palette. At the same time, Murakami released the short video “Superflat First Love”. Murakami had founded the “Superflat” art movement to be representative of the shallowness of post-War Japanese culture. In this video, the style’s Japanese animation and graphic prints are front and center, along with a magical LV trunk that doubles as a portal into Murakami’s psychedelic dreamworld.

Born in Tokyo in 1962, Murakami is one of the most influential and acclaimed artists to have emerged from Asia in the late twentieth century, creating a wide-ranging body of work that consciously bridges fine art, design, animation, fashion and popular culture. He received a Ph.D. from the prestigious 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”. American popular culture in the form of animation, comics, and fashion are among the influences on his work, which includes painting, sculpture, installation, and animation, as well as a wide range of collectibles, multiples and commercial products.

He founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki, an art production and art management corporation. In addition to the production and marketing of Murakami’s art and related work, Kaikai Kiki functions as a supportive environment for the fostering of emerging artists. If we find ourselves in the neighbourhood, we’ll check out the Kaikai Kiki goodies at Roppongi Hills Art and Design Store (Roppongi, Tokyo).

Murakami is also a curator, a cultural 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 in 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). In 2011, he organized the “New Day: Artists for Japan” international charity auction at Christie’s New York in response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

In September 2010, “Murakami at Versailles” was the third exhibition of contemporary art at the famed 17th-century palace. The museum’s president Jean-Jacques Aillagon expressed a desire to stage “a confrontation between the ancient and the new”, rather than pleasing the palace bureaucracy. What he managed to do was to create a clash between France’s blue-blood traditionalists and the cultural avant-garde. Ultimately, the hype doubled the show’s press coverage, and thus the public’s interest.

The exhibition consisted of 22 works, including 11 newly created works, and followed the tour through the royal apartments. Missing from show were Murakami’s “body fluid” sculptures. They will also be missing from our story. Those works would have given a collective stroke to France’s blue-blood traditionalists, led by Prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon-Parme, a descendant of the French king Louis XIV. And they are not suitable for a beary nice blog.

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

The Oval Buddha Gold, a 6-meter-tall gold-leafed bronze work placed between the garden’s fountains, a portrait neither of the artist nor of Louis XIV, was certainly a most convincing collaboration between old and new royalty. And future shows at Versailles will be held on the palace grounds alone as organizers cowed to the pressure from palace bureaucracy.

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

The controversy didn’t phase Murakami one bit. If anything, he probably thrived on it. He said “I am the Cheshire Cat who greets Alice in Wonderland with his devilish grin, and chatters on as she wanders around the chateau.”

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Bears also feature in his work…

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Japanese style cute…

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

These are several of Murakami’s signature themes, series, and characters…

Flowers
Flowers

The Cherry World of Takashi Murakami

Perhaps Murakami’s most emblematic motif, these candy-colored, smiling flora came into the artist’s work when he was preparing for his entrance exams for the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts, and he embraced the form over nine years teaching prep-school students to draw flowers (even though, as he once said, “I didn’t like flowers”).

Mr Dob
Mr Dob

Murakami’s recurring characters each represent a different part of his psyche, and Mr. DOB, whose name plays on the slang expression “dobojite”, meaning “why?”, was originally created as a statement that Japanese art doesn’t need to imitate American art, and should find its own means of expression (a point somewhat complicated by those Mickey Mouse ears).

Kaikai Kiki
Kaikai Kiki

With names that translate roughly as “bizarre, yet refined”, an homage to the famed style of a 16th-century Japanese artist, these two impish characters reappear again and again in Murakami’s work as the artist’s spiritual guardians as well as the official mascots of his production company.

Jellyfish Eyes
Jellyfish Eyes

A trippy creature modeled after a Japanese monster called Hyakume (or Hundred Eyes) combined with elements of Humpty Dumpty, this character also lends its name to Murakami’s first feature-length movie, a CGI-powered extravaganza that brings the artist’s fantastical characters to life as the main attractions of an environmentally conscious monster movie.

Miss KO2
Miss Ko2

Inspired by anime and manga characters, Miss Ko2 is based on a “fighting ‘bisyoujo’ (Japanese slang for beautiful young girl) character from the game Viable Geo. Depicting an attractive blonde girl, the sculpture alludes to the eroticized figures in Japanese cartoon culture. Miss Ko2 was the first of Murakami’s characters to appear as a three-dimensional work, serving as a point of departure for the rest of his sculptures, referred to above as “body fluid” sculptures. One of these sculptures, the 1998 My Lonesome Cowboy, sold at Sotheby’s for $US15.2 million in 2008. The sculpture wasn’t displayed at Versailles, but Murakami still laughed all the way to the bank.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms

Anthropomorphized mushrooms, their caps dotted with blinking eyes, are another signature motif in Murakami’s work. As the artist has stated, “For me they seem both erotic and cute while evoking, especially for the Western imagination, the fantastic world of fairy tale. I thought that, by uniting the eroticism and the magic side of mushrooms, I could use them as motifs in my work.”

The Creatures From Planet 66
The Creatures From Planet 66

In 2003, Murakami was commissioned to design characters for Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills real-estate development. Known collectively as “The Creatures From Planet 66”, these smiling characters travel throughout the world on a mission to spread happiness and knowledge. More incentive to visit the Roppongi Hills Art and Design Store.

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