Lot 12
  • 12

Takashi Murakami

Estimate
600,000 - 800,000 GBP
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Takashi Murakami
  • An Homage to IKB, 1957 D 
  • signed and dated 2012 on the overlap and variously inscribed on the stretcher
  • acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on aluminum 
  • 199.1 by 153cm.; 78 3/8 by 60 1/4 in.

Provenance

Galerie Perrotin, Paris

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2012

Catalogue Note

Entitled An Homage to IKB, 1957 D this painting embodies Takashi Murakami’s tribute to the father of the blue monochrome, Yves Klein. Where Klein is famed for his trademark pigment, International Klein Blue, Murakami’s beaming flowers represent the very hallmark of the Japanese master of Pop. Indeed, not only does this painting deliver a meeting of established artistic iconographies, it also represents the meeting of Western and Eastern artistic traditions. Klein was very much inspired by Buddhist meditative practices while Murakami’s’ oeuvre is fundamentally driven by the central influence of Andy Warhol and the Pop art movement. Klein’s experience of Japan, during his training as a judo-ka in Yokohama in 1952, imbued his practice with the spirit of natural harmony and meditation central to Zen philosophy. In a similar cultural exchange, Murakami – although having already achieved a PhD in traditional Japanese painting – travelled to New York to kick-start a contemporary art practice steeped in the post-war Japanese video-game culture of otaku. Echoing the random, yet harmonic and organic distribution of IKB saturated sponges in Klein’s Relief Éponges – compositions no less inspired by the sacred stone gardens in the Ryoan temple in Japan – Murakami’s blanket of varying sized smiling flowers is imbued with the same compositional harmony as Klein’s mesmerising monochrome works. Bearing the date 1957  in its title, the present work therefore holds particular historic significance by coinciding with Klein's inaugural exhibition of monochromes in which he first astonished and amazed Europe with his ineffable planes of blue.

In line with the exacting standards enforced by the artist’s factory-like studio setup, each individual flower is individually painted by hand with faultless and immaculate precision to deliver computer screen-like perfection. Here the schema is dominated by a unifying cerulean blue and punctuated with spectral hues of candy colour. Entrenched in the ancient Eastern practice of decorative flower painting on traditional lacquered panels, Murakami engenders a new expression for Japanese high-art that encompasses the mythology, craft and skill of Japan’s past with the pervasive and highly commercial visual culture that developed in Japan following the Second World War.

In fusing pre-modern Japanese tradition with the pervasive culture of manga and sub-culture of otaku, Murakami confronts Japan’s cultural identity following the aftermath of the Second World War. The literal and metaphoric ‘flattening’ of Japanese culture – heralded by the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and stymied by the dominance of American and Western surveillance and influence thereafter – is confronted by Murakami with an oeuvre idiosyncratically united by the conceptual umbrella philosophy of the ‘Superflat’. As the artist has emphatically laid down in the ‘Superflat Manifesto’: “Super flatness is an original concept of the Japanese, who have been completely Westernised" (Takashi Murakami, Superflat Trilogy, Tokyo 2000, p. 155). Murakami’s impeccably rendered flowers are here invested with the synthetic flawlessness of the television screen and computer graphics. Having forged an aesthetic grounded in the special effects of animé and manga, a visual sub-culture that reactively emerged following the proliferation of Americana in Japan, Murakami presents a fine-art lexicon for the culturally dislocated Japanese generation nurtured by the US political custody after World War II. As hinted at by the Pop infused interlace of innocuously cute flowers, Murakami incorporates the child-like innocence of Japanese pop-culture with the violent erasure of cultural and political identity in the nuclear fall-out of the atomic bomb. The inane hystericism of Murakami’s flowers incorporates the unsettling and symptomatic infantilisation of Japanese culture as the vehicle to develop and globally proliferate a new and manifestly Japanese art.

In this manner the development of Murakami’s ‘Superflat’ philosophy bears a marked similarity to the ZERO movement that spread across Europe during the immediate decades following World War II. Echoing the cultural baggage and wreckage left in the wake of the Second World War, artists such as Yves Klein, Gunter Uecker, Piero Manzoni and Otto Piene (fundamental members of the ZERO movement who all exhibited in Dusseldorf with Alfred Schmela in the late 1950s) strove for a new aesthetic which erased historical encumbrance in favour of a tabular rasa or ground zero through which artistic expression could be renewed and regenerated. In making a tribute to Klein’s iconic IKB panels, Murakami acknowledges the parity between a singular set of cultural circumstances that prescribed these artists’ disparate practices.

The artist's trademark smiling flowers thus stand at the heart of an agenda of Japanese identity politics. Herein lies the cultural strategy of Murakami's artistic project of postcolonial re-territorialisation: by forging a dialectic between mass and sub-culture, cultural alterity and westernised dominance, orient and occident, Murakami single-handedly opens up a new critical perspective and entirely new category for Japanese art. 

Close