Lot 43
  • 43


400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Takashi Murakami
  • Panda
  • signed, numbered 3/3 and variously inscribed on the underside of the left ear
  • fibreglass with antique Louis Vuitton trunk
  • sculpture with trunk: 231 by 163 by 113 cm. 91 by 64 1/8 by 44 1/2 in.
  • overall with plinth: 256 by 163 by 120 cm. 100 3/4 by 64 1/8 by 47 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 2003, this work is number 3 from an edition of 3, each with a unique Louis Vuitton trunk.


The Artist
Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003


New York, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Takashi Murakami: Superflat Monogrami, April - May 2003 (edition no. unknown)
Los Angeles, Blum & Poe, Takashi Murakami: Inochi, May - June 2004 (the present work)
Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Spank the Monkey, September 2006 - January 2007, p. 158, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Art, on extended loan, May 2008 - October 2013 (the present work)
Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Until Now: Collecting the New (1960 - 2010), April - August 2010 (edition no. unknown)
Doha, The Qatar Museums Al Riwaq, Murakami – Ego, February - June 2012, p. 231, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Art, In Focus: Contemporary Japan, December 2017 - August 2018 (the present work)


Paul Mattick, ‘Review: Takashi Murakami at Marianne Boesky’, Art in America, January 2004, p. 108, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), ©MURAKAMI, 2007, p. 34, illustrated in colour (edition no. unknown)


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairy accurate, although they are more vibrant in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals some minute scratches to the surface of the work, particularly to the red surface at the top of the back of the head, and on the purple surface of the outer left ear. Further close inspection reveals a few intermittent and minor scuff marks and accretions in isolated places, and a few minute chips, most notably one to the pink surface at the back underside towards the legs. The Louis Vuitton trunk, which acts as a base for the sculpture, is in very good condition. The condition of the trunk is as expected from a vintage, used piece of luggage, and has signs of wear due to past use. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultraviolet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

“In the art world, critics always connect entertainment with guilt, amusement with superficiality. I think my work is the answer to that criticism. Which doesn’t mean that I make work only to amuse… on the surface they appear very light and flimsy, but they’re actually made of very solid materials underneath. The depth is visual.” Takashi Murakami cited in: Exh. Cat., Doha, Al Riwaq, Murakami: Ego, 2012, p. 256.

Undeniably joyful and fantastically whimsical, Takashi Murakami’s larger-than-life sculptural work Panda (2003) intelligently explores the boundaries between fine art and commercial product, high culture and luxury fashion. The artist’s transgression of traditional Japanese high art is profoundly present throughout his visual practice as a whole, for Murakami is as much mega-celebrity, curator, designer and brand manager as he is an artist. This ground-breaking marriage between high art and commercial culture has its foundation in Murakami’s commercially successful 2002 collaboration with the illustrious fashion house Louis Vuitton, when the brand’s then-creative director Marc Jacobs invited Murakami to reinvigorate Vuitton’s accessories line. This collaboration is central to the present work, as the adorable, cartoon-like panda stands en pointe atop a vintage Louis Vuitton monogrammed trunk. Here, Murakami pays homage to the brand’s distinguished history as a Parisian luggage company, as well as to their visionary branding that has evolved around a storyline of travelling on a surreal journey through time – ideas of which Murakami touches upon throughout the collaboration. The artist’s project with Vuitton in 2002 was received with controversy, for Murakami himself asserts, “Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of ‘high art’. In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that’s okay – I’m ready with my hard hat” (Takashi Murakami cited in: Exh. Cat., Doha, Al Riwaq, Murakami: Ego, 2012, p. 228). Executed only one year after Murakami’s first project with Vuitton, Panda stands defiantly against convention, and delivers a powerful critique on the merging of high art and luxury fashion.  

Murakami’s panda – known as Panda Geant within the artist’s vibrant, Louis Vuitton monogrammed world – first featured in the animation Superflat Monogram, which Murakami created in collaboration with the fashion house in 2003. In the short film, a young girl’s daydream is disrupted by the sight of a giant, towering panda. As she gazes up at the creature, he bends forward and consumes her, after which the girl quickly finds herself thrust into a whimsical adventure inside the panda’s body. The animation presents a nihonga and kawaii-inspired version of Alice in Wonderland, in which the little girl journeys through an enchanting time machine of swirling, multicoloured Louis Vuitton logos, which are juxtaposed against the artist’s trademark iconography of cherry blossoms – a traditional symbol in Japanese culture. Panda Geant makes a bold appearance within this psychedelic universe, as the girl spots him magically standing atop a small leather Louis Vuitton trunk. Thus the present work fantastically brings Murakami’s animation to life, as here the artist’s audience can view the playful character and its vintage Vuitton case in the round and in larger than life size.

While Murakami’s charming panda became an identifiable mascot for the Louis Vuitton brand around the time of the 2002 collaboration, the character also became a crucial signifier for the artist, and one that would recur throughout Murakami’s wider oeuvre. Indeed, Panda Geant is deeply encoded within the aesthetics of the Murakami brand, for the character – whether rendered in fiberglass or stamped on a leather handbag – indefinitely lies at the intersection between high art and commerce. Murakami’s Panda is therefore undoubtedly reminiscent of the work of Jeff Koons and KAWS, as for both artists, the kitsch, the commercial and the prosaic are powerfully transformed. Significantly however, there is a deeper side to Murakami’s practice in his postmodern conception of Superflat, which not only explores the flattening and superficiality of traditional Japanese aesthetics, but also remarks on the flat and shallow nature of consumer culture – the latter of which Murakami seems to equally celebrate and critically exploit. Superflat has become a cultural phenomenon that spans all spheres of commercial culture in both the East and West. Indeed, yet another vital impulse in Murakami’s work is his profound effort to marry Eastern and Western aesthetics and taste: “Gradually, Murakami has erased the distinction between himself and the cultural position he inhabits. The complex iconography he has built may have been extracted from Japanese entertainment, but these images have become Murakami’s own icons – or better yet, avatars – which he uses to negotiate the relationship between East and West” (Gary Carrion-Murayari cited in: op. cit., p. 119). Panda therefore couples a beguiling cuteness with a profound understanding of contemporary culture in both Japan and the West, in turn presenting a spectacular example of Murakami’s visionary practice – one that interprets and defines the cultural spirit of our time.