Takashi Murakami (b. 1962)
Melting DOB C
signed and dated 'TAKASHI 99' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas mounted on board
39 ½ x 39 ½in. (100.3 x 100.3cm.)
Executed in 1999
Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2001.
Takashi Murakami: Kaikai Kiki, exh. cat., Paris, Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporaine, 2002, no. 75 (detail illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Takashi Murakami: Summon Monsters? Open the Door? Heal? Or Die?, 2001, no. 68 (illustrated in colour, p. 53).

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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘Ultimately, [DOB] would become a stand-in for the artist – a type of self-portrait that reflects the persona of its creator’
–Paul Schimmel

With its frenetic proliferation of concentric eyes, a menacing gateway of razor-sharp teeth shielding a river of blood-red tongue, and topped by psychedelic swirls of lustrous colour, Melting DOB C (1999) is an arresting example of Takashi Murakami’s most popular creation. Bright colour, evocative of commercial art, combines with the manga-style graphic perspective associated with Murakami’s ‘Superflat’ movement, the warped features of the creature conjuring a monstrous vision of a character first conceived in 1992. In its initial stages, the face of Mr. DOB incorporated the aforementioned letters, with ‘D’ and ‘B’ embedded in the ears of a protagonist reminiscent of Mickey Mouse, and with the face representing the ‘O’. Originally encapsulating kawaii – a type of cuteness synonymous with Japanese popular culture – Mr. DOB developed into something altogether more villainous. The character is widely recognised as a stand-in for the artist himself: as Paul Schimmel explains, ‘Murakami has created a constantly evolving character that embodies all the complexities and nuances of his ever-changing personal and corporate identity’ (P. Schimmel, ‘Making Murakami’, in ©Murakami, exh. cat., The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2007, p. 67). Melting DOB C encapsulates this dynamic maturity of the titular character, with the letters dissolving in a hallucinatory wave above a contorted face of abundant eyes and gnashing teeth.

The frightening, unsettling nature of Melting DOB C was largely informed by Pink Floyd’s 1982 motion picture The Wall. In the film, an animated scene features a wall unleashing a screaming face from one of its bricks, an image that provided a basis for some of Murakami’s early work. Acknowledging that this apparition has also informed the character of Mr. DOB, Murakami observed that ‘by crystallising this or that image, I made [the Mr. DOB works] express my respect for the metamorphoses in animated films, which were capable of expressing this overwhelming cry’ (T. Murakami, quoted in Takashi Murakami: Kaikai Kiki, exh. cat., Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, and Serpentine Gallery, London, 2002, unpaged). With teeth bared before rapidly parting to release an exclamation of hair-raising horror, Pink Floyd’s screaming face can be viewed as a precedent for the physiognomy of Melting DOB C, who appears to be in the throes of metamorphosis or movement.

This sense of transfiguration is encapsulated by the proliferated plethora of ogling eyes scattered around Mr. DOB’s head, multifariously focused and, in one instance, conjoined. The eye is perhaps the most distinctive of Murakami’s leitmotifs, with vast seas of irises and pupils appearing in his Jelly Eyes works or even flooding across fabrics for Murakami-designed Issey Miyake menswear. Murakami was inspired by the fantastical world of manga author Shigeru Mizuki and, in particular, his character of Hyakume (or ‘hundred eyes’), whose entire body is caked in this component. The incorporation of multiple eyes, whilst appearing as uncanny and even disturbing, also has a stylistic function in Murakami’s work, with the artist rupturing a sense of one-point perspective so that the viewer has the feeling of being tracked or followed by the network of irises. ‘Compared to the classical technique of representation using “one-point” perspective,’ Murakami claimed, ‘my superflat [sic] idea does not really correspond to traditional Western perspective, but to the introduction of a “multiplicity of points”. By drawing a large number of eyes I disturb the perspective, or rather, I diversify it’ (T. Murakami, quoted in Takashi Murakami: Kaikai Kiki, exh. cat., Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, and Serpentine Gallery, London, 2002, unpaged). Conjuring a three-dimensional universe on a two-dimensional plane, Melting DOB C summons Murakami’s ubiquitous icon as a monster truly capable of shattering the membrane between a cartoon world and our own.

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