All You Need to Know About Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami was born in Tokyo, Japan, on February 1st, 1962. One of the most well-known contemporary Japanese artists and successful entrepreneur.

Even if you don't know Murakami by name, you definitely know him by style, most notably his "Superflat" aesthetic: a colourful, two-dimensional style that straddles the division between fine art and pop culture. More precisely, his famous rainbow-colored flower print that's etched itself into not only contemporary pop culture but also art history.

Murakami prised himself in blurring the lines of fine art, commercialism, and Japanese visual culture into his prolific practice. He masterfully illustrates traditional Japanese aesthetics within the context of popular culture. He is frequently challenging rules while solidifying his rock-star status in Japan and worldwide.

According to ‘I Lobo You' is the fifth wealthiest contemporary artist with a net worth of $100 million. 

How did Takashi Murakami become an artist?

As a young boy, Murakami had always dreamed of being an artist. Both enthralled and inspired by animation and comics, it was only a matter of time before he enrolled in Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Murakami strived to improve his drawing skills and expand his creative imagination through learning and research.

What is Takashi Murakami's inspiration?

His work draws inspiration from the Otaku Japanese subculture, which is brimming with unique perversions of cuteness and innocence, alongside violence. From this, Murakami crafts a subtle yet pointed critique of Japan's contemporary culture and the West's influence upon it.

"My aesthetic sense was formed at a young age by what surrounded me: the narrow residential spaces of Japan and the mental escapes from those spaces that took the forms of manga and anime."

And that is the base of Takashi Murakami's popularity.

When did Takashi Murakami first get famous?

Throughout the late 80s and all of the 90s, Murakami was well known in art circles in Japan and the United States. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, he was a relatively familiar name. However, it wasn't until his astonishingly successful handbag designs for Louis Vuitton in 2003 that made him a celebrity—especially in Japan.

What is special about Takashi Murakami?

Takashi Murakami is one of the most important and visible Japanese artists today. What Andy Warhol is to the USA, Murakami is to Japan.

Known for evading expectations, just when critics think they have him pinned down, he releases a new, startling innovation that captivates the audience and delights art fanatics. His knack for disseminating and promoting pop art strategies in ways unforeseen before while creating an aura of freshness that's undeniably magnetic.

In his own words, Murakami describes his idea of what art means as, "We want to see the newest things. That is because we want to see the future, even if only momentarily. It is the moment in which, even if we don't completely understand what we have glimpsed, we are nonetheless touched by it. This is what we have come to call art."

Many point towards his creations as the future of art. Instead of drawing on old strategies and inspiration, Murakami always looks towards the new, creating what has never been seen before. 

What is Takashi Murakami's art style?

Taking inspiration from Andy Warhol's factory, Murakami developed his skills within a new form of Pop art, named Neo-pop. In this striking style, the line between pop culture and high art has not been simply blurred but also completely obliterated.

Interestingly, Takashi Murakami's style has spurred on an entirely new form of art - Superflat art. This innovative style is characterized by bold outlines, flat colors, and a lack of perspective and three-dimensional depth.

How does Takashi Murakami make his artwork?

Characterized by hard-edged, largely flat color and often intricate detail, Murakami’s artwork principally produced using Adobe Illustrator.

 

How much are Takashi Murakami's creations worth?

As you can guess from the picture of Murakami we've painted above, his work of art tends to sell for a pretty penny. If you were to purchase a Murakami painting, you could expect to fork out anywhere between $200,000 to over $2,000,000.

However, it's a creation during his 1998 "bodily fluid" work that takes the top spot. The Lonesome Cowboy, a lewd depiction of an anime-inspired figure mid-ejaculation, proved an instant hit with fans and art lovers alike while inspiring disgust in some. The Lonesome Cowboy sold for $13,500,000 in 2008 at Sotheby's New York auction, way above the estimated price.

What are some of Takashi Murakami's most well-known works?

Celestial Flowers (2018)

The flower is arguably Murakami's most recognizable motif. You know the one with rainbow-colored petals and beaming, cartoonish smiley faces in the pistil. Popularly known as "the Hypebeast Flower," this particular artwork is an explosion of strong neon colors and stark contrast, which is a sidestep from Murakami's usual bright hues. 

On close inspection, you'll find that the flowers are painted on platinum leaf, creating a texture akin to stained glass. 

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

In a 2005 article from the New York Times, the artist explained that the smiling Flowers evoked repressed, contradictory emotions and collective trauma of Japanese locals triggered by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings back in 1945.

Louis Vuitton x Murakami Speedy

If you lived during the early and mid-00s, the likelihood is that you couldn't escape the Louis Vuitton x Murakami Speedy bags. As one of the fashion highlights of the era, the multi-colored, quirky bags has become synonymous with aughties fashion, thanks to being the it-bag of choice for Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Madonna, and Jessica Simpson circa 2003.

These days, you may see Kendall Jenner or Bella Hadid sporting modernized versions of the iconic look.

Mr. DOB

Murakami's first and most celebrated character, Mr. DOB, made his first appearance in 1992. The mouse-like mascot can be found woven into his artwork in various styles and colors. Still, he's always recognizable by his huge eyes, grinning face, and two distinct ears. The left ear is inscribed with "D," and the right features "B."

What else Takashi Murakami do?

The output of the superstar artist ranges from paintings, sculptures, accessories, and prints to a 2013 feature film, Jellyfish Eyes  — plus a host of commercial products.

Given that his first huge success was a handbag, it would only make sense that Murakami would continue in the fashion designing business. To this day, Murakami continues to work with Louis Vuitton and has his own clothing range aptly named Takashi Murakami Clothing.

He is also the founder and president of Kaikai Kiki Co, which operates out of both Japan and New York. Through the company, Murakami helped many young artists gain international exposure—by mounting exhibits, producing and selling merchandise, and organizing a biannual art festival (Biannual Art Fair Geisai) and convention in Tokyo.

Most Famous Takashi Murakami Fans

Kanye West, known for his countercultural and trailblazing preferences, seems to be naturally drawn to Murakami. First designing Kanye's album artwork for 'Graduation' (2007), they've since collaborated on several other projects. 

Drake, upon receiving a Takashi Murakami Flower Pillow from the artist himself, posted the pillows on his Instagram with the caption, "I know social media can be a life swallowing, ego-driven, destructive tool…but it's also led me to make some amazing connections and have casual conversations with people I truly admire. Very grateful for that!!!" Very clearly a super fan!

Murakami also worked with incredibly popular American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish on her music video for "you should see me in a crown." The animated video features an anime-cartoon version of Eilish and Murakami's signature smiling flowers.

Takashi Murakami Merchandise

Like most successful artists, Murakami has a collection of merchandise that’s not only coveted among fans but also the general public. Murakami’s merchandise line predominantly features his iconic characters, drawings, and superflat style.

A high-quality and challenging Takashi Murakami Jigsaw Puzzle features one of three reproductions of Murakami's most famous pieces. You’ll also find skateboard prints among his lines. But perhaps his most noticeable offer are his colourful pillows.

Working with his own company, Kaikai KiKi, Murakami released a line of adorable signature pillows that have become a must-have in the art community and behind.

Takashi Murakami's flower pillows combine joy, color, and comfort with aesthetic prowess that only a true artist could evoke. Their flower-like shape is appealing to the eye, while their plush-velour look is delightful to touch.

A Takashi Murakami flower pillow holds a lot of weight for collectors who view it as an accessible gateway to the Murakami world. Moreover, the Takashi Murakami plush can also be found lining some celebrity social media feeds (see above) and appearing in some photoshoots, most notably Kanye West's. The Takashi Murakami plush is available in two main sizes: 60cm (23in) and 30cm (11.5.) However, there’s also a highly-popular 1m (40in) super-sized pillow, that’s a favorite among celebrities. The pillows are also available in 4 main stunning: Rainbow, Pink, Blue, and Green. Recently, the MoMA have released new color editions, including golden and silver. Weighing in at 0.5kg (1lbs,) they have a substantial, "full" feel without being too heavy.

Originally, the pillow featured only the original Takashi Murakami flower. However, recently, the MoMA released a new addition with similar petals but a more relaxed sunflower face in the pistil.  

Finally 


Takashi Murakami has maintained Rockstar status among the Japanese public and in worldwide scenes for over two decades now. And his popularity growth shows no signs of stopping. Linking across generations to incorporate the traditional old and quirky new in his work, Murakami still has a message to get across.

Having collaborated with numerous big names and released masterpiece after masterpiece, we have no reason to believe Murakami plans to stop his trailblazing trajectory through the art and contemporary world. We set our sights toward the future and can only anticipate what Murakami has to show us next!

March 03, 2022 — Louis Liu