MURAKAMI vs MURAKAMI
Being one of the most prominent contemporary artist, Murakami’s work is no stranger to the art world and those who are keen. Coming back again to hold one of his biggest exhibitions in Hong Kong once used to be Central Police Station Compound, Taikwun, Murakami is taking his audience through a divergent extreme journey of his artist’s oeuvre, beginning with a series of large-scale post-apocalyptic works to his optimistic flower pieces, to his contemplative Enso paintings.
The Birth Cry of Universe
The main hall of 3/F highlights Takashi Murakami’s large gold-leaf clad 4.5-metre-tall sculpture The Birth Cry of a Universe, shown here for the first time in its final version after 14 years of preparation, sitting in the middle of a room full of his cartoon skulls. Murakami’s signature “Superflat” and kawaii style transcends pop culture: under the cute aesthetics, however, the characters lurk darker visions of trauma and pain. The setting reflects his anxiety about the post-war period in Japan after the detonation of two atomic bombs and the flood of American culture.
Over the years, Murakami has built a remarkable collection of art with works by post-war artists who influenced him. The collection reflects his historical rigor and eclectic tastes. Choices of the collection were driven by nostalgia, reaching back to the roots of his own career, as well as a respect for great artistic geniuses.
Eight colourful costumes designs are now shown for the first time. Takashi Murakami is known for his elaborate and unconventional outfits. The artist claims modestly that with a weakness in speaking English, he communicates and achieves attention with his costumes—which perhaps also serve as an armor against the rarefied world of contemporary art.
Takashi Murakami has long been fascinated with British artist Francis Bacon. Drawn to the way Bacon expressively distorts bodies and faces, Murakami transforms his images with Bacon characteristic surrealism—faces protruding from faces, appendages sprouting forth from mouths—in the motifs of his artistic iconography. In many ways, the multiple layers in his Bacon works, with inner psychological turmoil resulting in a dark yet beautiful final expression, encapsulates the complex trajectories present in the exhibition.
Tan Tan Bo Studies
Tan Tan Bo—which is also a reincarnation of Mr. DOB, which in turn is an alter-ego of Takashi Murakami—is based on a manga character by Mizuki Shigeru. Here we see the preliminary sketches in preparation for a final painting. Viewers can scrutinize the exhaustive research, the attention to detail, and endless rounds of editing that goes into the production of every “Superflat” work.
A room full of Murakami’s signature flower icons, obsessively and repetitively combined and presented. He has elaborated the concept of “Superflat”, which refers not only to the two-dimensional picture plane in Japanese art, but also ushers in the rejection of hierarchical divisions between high and low art, and of society itself. With his abiding interest in art history, these works also allude to Abstract Expressionism’s explorations of all over compositions.
A room covered in gold from floor to ceiling. It resembles Andy Warhol’s silver factory. Like Warhol, the commercial approach of the grand-scale art tightened the gap between high and low art. The usage of gold recalls the sacred aura of religious icons, figures, and spaces throughout history. The Enso (“circle”) symbolises emptiness, unity, and infinity in Zen Buddhism; thus, offers a meditative space to reflect on nothingness and finitude—a contemplative finale to the exhibition MURAKAMI vs MURAKAMI.
Kaikai and Kiki
Kaikai and Kiki features two mischievous characters that reoccur in Takashi Murakami’s artistic practice. “Kaikai” is the child figure with the rabbit ears while “Kiki” is the figure with three eyes and fangs for teeth. “Kaikai Kiki” can be translated as “supernatural” or “weird” and was the phrase used to praise the blend of weirdness and refinement in the works of the sixteenth-century Japanese painter Kanō Eitoku. Kaikai and Kiki are the first outdoor sculptural works by Takashi Murakami since his exhibition at the Château de Versailles.
MURAKAMI vs MURAKAMI
Venue: Tai Kwun Contemporary
JC Contemporary and F Hall Studio
Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
Date: 1 JUNE – 1 SEP, 2019