- Takashi Murakami
- And Then, And Then And Then And Then And Then And Then. Red Dots
- signed, signed with the artist's monogram and dated 2013 on the overlap; variously inscribed on the stretcher
- acrylic on canvas mounted on board
- 103 by 103cm.; 39 1/2 by 39 1/2 in.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
The smiling, happy, playful and perfectly cute figure of Mr DOB is here immediately recognisable as the artist’s principle protagonist and trademark Pop character. Fusing East and West, DOB was born from a simulation of language and cartoon imagery; part 1970s Japanese comic book humour and American Walt Disney. Essentially, DOB has become Murakami's house brand, developing over time in Murakami's work and appearing in various different forms and contexts: as an inflatable balloon, in films, on clothing and as a character in other compositions. Immortalising Murakami’s signature character against an almost holographic painterly ground, the present work represents the culmination of over 20 years of evolution, through which the artist perpetually reinvents his image and explores the realm of branding and its dichotomous relationship with high art and cultural tradition.
Immaculately rendered in the artist’s archetypal Superflat aesthetic, this irresistibly intriguing presence precisely fills the square composition with its dark red contours, its multiplied all-seeing and implicitly all-knowing eyes, rapaciously glinting teeth and capital DOB initials. Through its sheer formal appearance, Murakami’s hero inevitably appropriates the monumental cultural legacy of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, arguably the single most potent symbol of the animated visual culture that has become so integral to quotidian experience in our era. Yet it is also heavily derived from an enormously rich artistic legacy with which the artist is profoundly familiar, having been trained in the art of traditional Nihonga painting, to become a highly sophisticated and complex witness of our times.
While engaging formal traditions of classical Japanese painting, Murakami enlists the instantly recognizable aesthetic vocabulary of comic and cartoon culture aligned with the work of Pop Art innovators such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Indeed, Murakami’s incomparable practice is rooted in a key relationship between Pop Art and time-honoured Japanese painting, in that neither tradition recognises a distinction between the supposedly high and low realms of art. This grand synthesis has become a central influence to the artist’s Superflat ideology. In formal terms, the schematic graphics and flat picture plane that characterise screen works of the Edo period (1603-1868) can be allied with the essentially one-dimensional uniformity of Japanese manga and anime. In conceptual terms, the omnipresent fusion of fine and decorative art in traditional Japanese culture chronologically anticipates and ideologically parallels the virtually indistinguishable relationship between technical exactitude, marketing, merchandising and commoditisation in contemporary visual culture. For Murakami, the blurring of high and low remains characteristic of Japanese society, as he has explicated by pointing out the co-existence of a department store and a museum in the same building complex.
Murakami’s art has consistently mediated a critical threshold between two phenomenal trends of contemporary Japanese visual culture: the more confrontational, aggressive and sexual atmosphere of Otaku, the computer-based virtual lifestyle that volunteers a fantastical substitute for reality; and the unrestrainedly cute cartoon ethos of Kawaii, an even more ingenious congregation of adorable superficiality. The present work conflates these two divergent yet pervasive cultural tendencies perfectly to reveal a personality that is simultaneously simulated and authentic.
In the present work the artist has created an anthropomorphic alter ego, a constantly evolving character that embodies all the complexities and nuances of Murakami’s multi-faceted personal, artistic and corporate identities. In Murakami’s KaikaiKiKi Studio (formerly Hiropon Factory), which operates much like a modern software or digital production business, he employs a salaried staff working in product development, fabrication, marketing and sales. From within this enterprise, Murakami has created the redoubtable DOB; a futuristic version of Mickey Mouse that sees everything with its manifold eyes in the course of voraciously accumulating experience. As epitomised by And then, And Then… DOB stands as a celebrated and influential icon that effectively uses past imagery and contemporary consumer imagery to define the zeitgeist of our digital age.