• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1081


    15 May 2002, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 316

    Takashi Murakami (b. 1962)


    Price Realised  


    Takashi Murakami (b. 1962)
    oil and acrylic on fiberglass
    88 x 41 x 48 in. (223.5 x 104 x 122 cm.)
    Executed in 1997. This work is from an edition of three with one artist's proof, each version having a different haircolor and bikini top.

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    "If we are talking about the hottest, most scandalous artists, there are Koons, Damien and now Murakami"
    (Y. Minami, Summon Monsters? Open the Door? Heal? Or Die?, Tokyo 2001, p. 58)

    As a child Takashi Murakami longed to be an animation director, instead he went to art school to learn "nihon-ga", a style of painting which combines traditional Eastern styles and subjects with forms and motifs from the West. Yet Murakami's artistic explorations have moved the artist away from his original training to develop a new vocabulary in contemporary art. These explorations have adopted a multitude of forms, from painting and sculpture, to balloons, stuffed animals, T-shirts and watches.

    Murakami grew up in Japan at a time when the country was recovering from World War II. This period encouraged a high rate of childbirth, and as a result, popular culture flourished in the form of mass produced toys, movies, television, pop music, comic books or manga, and anime cartoons. In addition, the American presence was strongly felt and the world of Disney further fueled this media saturated environment.

    In the late 1990's Murakami incorporated this culture's aesthetic into meticulously created paintings, at once, a reinterpretation both of American Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Known for their huge expressionistic and gestural canvases, the works of such larger than life figures, Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning, were translated into flat, pristine surfaces eliminating all evidence of the brushstroke. Just as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein established a relation between the "high and low" art by referring to pop culture in their paintings, so too did Murakami, who developed characters that are a cross between Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty.

    During these developments, Murakami realized that it is through the environment that surrounds us that one can gain a deeper understanding of society. By incorporating the flatness of traditional, uni-dimensional Japanese painting, and contemporary American and Japanese popular culture, the artist created a Disney-like, Japanese animation style uniquely his own.

    Much of Murakami's work derives from Japanese otaku or 'geek' culture, typified by males obsessed with the world of comic books, video games and animation, a Japanese pop culture phenomena. The artist works out of what he calls the Hiropon Factory, which is in the spirit of Andy Warhol's Factory of the 1960's. "Hiropon" is slang for heroin, a possible allusion to Warhol's involvement in 60's drug culture. In this factory, Murakami was challenged by the idea of converting a two dimensional anime figure into a three dimensional figure. The result of that challenge is Hiropon.

    Hiropon is a deliciously scandalous sculpture; a young girl is depicted with oversized breasts, barely clad by a bikini top. From her almost phallic nipples, milk sprays forth in a loop, encircling her form. Her bottom half is naked yet devoid of sexuality. Hiropon's pose is reminiscent of a young school girl skipping rope; a girl in pigtails with one leg raised, ready to jump as the skipping rope passes over her head. Yet the rope in this case is a spray of milk which emanates from the figure's breasts, which brings to mind the age old idea of woman as sustainer, as a giver and propagator of life. By no means is Hiropon a demure school girl; she is active and confident. In the style typical of Japanese cartoon characters, Hiropon's eyes are huge, but in this case, they are meticulously painted, vibrant and mesmerizing in their rainbow use of colors.

    Murakami says of this piece, "The design took its original inspiration from a large-breasted girl game that was on a software fan magazine that I picked up at the 1992 summer Comike. With these abnormal swollen nipples and breasts, I could illustrate the depth of Japan's subculture, and the excesses of its art, the psycho-sexual complexes of the Japanese, and the increasingly malformed otaku culture!" (T. Murakami , Summon monsters? Open the door? Heal? Or die?, Tokyo 2001, p. 140)

    Like Jeff Koon's Pink Panther, 1988, Hiropon raises popular culture to the level of fine art. Both artists are similar in their approach as they view no distinction between fine art and merchandise, their art communicates to a widespread audience. Both sculptures too incorporate similar elements; they depict essentially naked, larger than life-size women with bright lips, wavy hair, and more-than- generous breasts, the standard male fantasy. In Koons' Pink Panther, the clearly sexualized woman, (a blonde bombshell) is juxtaposed with the cute, bright pink, and highly popular cartoon character the "Pink Panther". Similarly, Hiropon is both sexy and cute, a highly erotic figure with ribbons in her pigtails. Where as normally the connection between toys and high art is suppressed, here the relationship is celebrated. Hiropon is a mixture of the infantile and the sexual; a hybrid mix of womanly characteristics and girlish charm, both a woman and a girl, a perfect combination of aesthetics and mass appeal.

    Hiropon announces the birth of a new form of female deity that recalls art-historical references from the Nike of Samothrace or Winged Victory to the countless tributes to the figure of the Madonna, from Venus to the milk maidens of the visual arts.


    Feature, New York

    Saleroom Notice

    This work is from an edition of three with one artist's proof, each version having a different haircolor and bikini top.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from a Private American Collector


    N. Sawaragi, "Takashi Murakami", World Art, Summer 1997, p. 76 (illustrated)
    D. Pagel, "Punch and Dazzle", Los Angeles Times, July 3, 1998, p. F26
    J. Tumlir, "Takashi Murakami at Blum & Poe", LA Weekly, July 17-23, 1998, p. 61
    M. Darling, "The Fire-hose Lariats of Takashi Murakami", Art International, Volume 1, Number 3, Fall 1998, p. 26
    J. Joyce, "Starblazers new pop from Japan", Art Issues, September/October 1998, p. 25
    M. Matsui, "Takashi Murakami", Index 3, November-December 1998, p. 49 (illustrated)
    K. Besher, "A Dirty Little Secret", nu: The Nordic Art Review, No9, p. 7 (illustrated)
    R. Smith, "Takashi Murakami". The New York Times, February 5, 1999, p. B35
    D. Greene, "Exposure Takashi Murakami", Spin, March 1999, p. 64 (illustrated)
    D. Rimanelli, "Takashi Murakami", Artforum, November 1999 (illustrated)
    "Takashi Murakami", Village Voice, February 16, 1999 (illustrated)
    R. Bates, "a different room", Smock, July 2000, p. 66 (illustrated)
    P. Noe, "The 5th Lyon Biennial", Tema Celeste, no. 82, 2000, p. 107 (illustrated)
    "Singular Visions", L'Uomo Vogue, Ottobre 2001, no. 324 (illustrated)
    K. Itoi, "The Wizard of Dob", ARTnews, March 2001, p. 134


    Osaka, Kirin Art Plaza, Konnichiwa, Mr. DOB, November 1996-December 1996 (an unpainted example was exhibited)
    Santa Monica, Blum & Poe, Back Beat, June-August 1998
    Wokyo Big Site, Wonder Festival, Winter 1998
    New York, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Superflat, January-February 1999 Annadale-on-Hudson, Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Bard College, Takashi Murakami: the Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning, June-September 1999, no.16 (illustrated; another example exhibited)
    Lyon, Le Biennale d'Art Contemporain de Lyon: Partage d'Exotismes, June-September 2000 (illustrated; another example exhibited)
    Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Takashi Murakami: Summon monsters? open the door? heal? or die?, August-November 2001, no. 29 (illustrated; another example exhibited)
    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Portland Art Museum; Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou; Mexico City, Museo Rufino Tamayo; and Miami Art Museum, Let's Entertain, February 2000-November 2001, p. 11, no. 47 (illustrated; another example exhibited)