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Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

Takashi Murakami
Photo: Maria Ponce Berre, © MCA Chicago

The Vancouver Art Gallery has successfully launched its spring season with one of its most monumental exhibits to date. Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, opened for public view last February 3, 2018 and will run until May 6, 2018. The exhibit’s eventful opening, in time for his birthday, featured a media preview, a birthday bash for the artist and a Murakami-themed dinner hosted by Shangri-La’s Market by Jean Georges. Local and international medias along with patrons and followers of his work celebrated at the gallery with Murakami himself, and luckily, we were invited to join the momentous event.

Takashi Murakami is best known for his unconventional artistic style which he coined “superflat”. It is described as both the aesthetic characteristics of the Japanese artistic tradition and the nature of post-war Japanese culture and society. Aside from his influential works in fine arts media, the Japanese contemporary designer is also known in the fashion industry for his collaborations with international brands like Louis Vuitton, Vans, Shu Uemura, Issey Miyake, and most recently, Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and London’s Gagosian Gallery, as well as his collaborations with musicians like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. His involvement in other aspects of the creative industry also extends to animation, which is where his early career started.

Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg featured over 55 artworks that highlighted the evolution of his works from the 1980’s to the present, including his recent large scale creations — a five-meter tall sculpture and two multi-panel paintings.

For Murakami, connecting with his audience and allowing his artwork to be accessible to the general public are integral aspects of what he stands for as an artist. Murakami has created a new major public art project featuring a skull surrounded by octopus tentacles which will cover the Gallery’s Georgia Street façade, extending the exhibition outside the traditional confines of the Gallery space. The exhibition opens with Murakami’s early paintings from the 1980s that synthesize traditional Nihonga-style painting techniques and formats with contemporary subject matter, and goes on to trace the artist’s shift in the 1990s toward a distinctive, anime-influenced style. From his signature animated flowers to the iconic character Mr. DOB, a mouse-like figure that serves as part ambassador and part self-portrait, the works in the show offer an in-depth look at Murakami’s unique Superflat universe. Additionally, the exhibition also features works from a recent body of paintings depicting groups of wizened Buddhist monks (Arhats), including the ten-panel 100 Arhats (2013), The Arhat works mark Murakami’s return to his training in traditional Japanese painting in order to find a response to the suffering caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan in 2011 that killed more than 15,000 people.

Needless to say, Murakami has already established himself and his company as an international household name both in Eastern and Western cultures, and has reshaped Japan’s contemporary art. Catch this and more of his incredible work at the Vancouver Art Gallery.