One of Japan’s most influential present-day artists, Takashi Murakami presents a comprehensive exhibition exploring the multifaceted universe of his artistic sensibilities. Spanning all three stories of Tai Kwun Contemporary Art Gallery in Hong Kong, ‘MURAKAMI VS MURAKAMI’ features over 60 paintings and sculptures in a stunning, immersive setting that showcases the intriguing paradoxes embodied in the diverse work and life of the artist. The exhibition is a representation of Murakami’s divergent oeuvre which blurs the line between high art and low art. It ranges from large-scale post-apocalyptic works to his optimistic flower pieces.
Murakami’s exhibit draws inspiration from various artists like British painter Francis Bacon and pop art pioneer Andy Warhol. From the former, he borrowed the characteristic of expressively distorting bodies and faces. Gesturing towards Andy Warhol’s iconic silver Factory, Murakami presents a room covered wall to ceiling in gold. These are adorned with paintings featuring the Enso, a Japanese motif symbolizing emptiness, unity, and infinity in Zen Buddhism. In many ways, Murakami’s creative philosophy mirrors that of Warhol’s, namely the erasure of boundaries between the canonical and the popular, as well as an eye for commercial and promotional impact.
The exhibition also explores ‘Superflat’ a postmodern art movement founded by Murakami himself, through his signature flower icons, obsessively and repetitively combined and presented. This concept refers to the perspectival flatness on the picture plane in Japanese art and takes inspiration from Japanese anime and manga. In another exhibit, the figures of a popular manga character Tan Tan Bo appear as phantoms writhing while spewing out bodily fluids in psychedelic colour. By combining a cute “Kawaii” aesthetic with something gloomier, the artist reflects his personal sense of cracking under pressure while also envisioning possible apocalyptic futures for humanity. The highlight of the room is a large gold-leaf clad 4.5-metre-tall sculpture ‘The Birth Cry of a Universe’, showcased for the first time in its final version after 14 years of preparation.
Murakami’s interest in ‘cosplay’ (a performance art popularized in Japan, wherein participants wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent specific characters) finds a way into the exhibition as well. For the artist who claims to have trouble speaking in English, cosplay is a way to communicate with the world. Eight colourful costumes of his are displayed for the first time in an exhibition setting.
MURAKAMI VS MURAKAMI was unveiled on June 1, 2019, and will be on display until September 1, 2019.