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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection

I open wide my eyes but see no scenery. I fix my gaze upon my heart.

I open wide my eyes but see no scenery. I fix my gaze upon my heart.
signed 'Takashi' (on the reverse of the center panel)
triptych—acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on panel
95 1/2 x 111 in. (242.6 x 282 cm.)
Executed in 2007.
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Harry and Linda Macklowe, New York
Private collection, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2009
C. Vogel, “The Warhol of Japan Pours Ritual Tea in a Zen Moment,” The New York Times, 7 May 2007, p.E1 (installation view illustrated).
R. Smith, "Art With Baggage in Tow," The New York Times, 4 April 2008, p. E27 (illustrated).
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Takashi Murakami: Tranquility of the Heart, Torment of the Flesh – Open Wide the Eye of the Heart and Nothing is Invisible, May-June 2007.
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst; Guggenheim Bilbao, ©MURAKAMI, October 2007-May 2009, n.p.(illustrated).
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics: A Collaboration with Nobuo Tsuji and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, October 2017-April 2018, n.p. (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

A striking example of Takashi Murakami’s indebtedness to historical art forms, I open wide my eyes but see no scenery. I fix my gaze upon my heart. is a monumental composition that combines contemporary forms and practices with a marked tribute to traditional methods and the artists that came before. Adding the likeness of a Buddhist monk to his cast of characters that includes Mr. DOB and the spritely Kaikai and KiKi, Murakami further conflates the realms of popular culture and high art. Sifting through the visual world, Murakami goes “back into his catalogue of motifs and references, chew(s) them up, and spit(s) them back out in a newly reimagined form,” observes curator Michael Darling (M. Darling, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, Chicago, 2017, p.22). Parsing Japanese and Western traditions through his own particular lens, Murakami has built up a visual vocabulary that borrows equally from art history and the commercial realm.

First debuted at the artist’s 2007 gallery exhibition in New York, the present example is one of four large-scale paintings that depict a stylized rendering of Daruma, the sixth-century Indian monk who brought Zen Buddhism to China. Traditionally shown in ink paintings with exaggerated and almost grotesque features, the monk is rendered here in the expressive, free style of brush painting yet is also supplemented with flairs of color and cartoon-like elements that have become Murakami’s signature. The entire composition on three panels is overwhelmed by a monstrous head with bulging eyes that sport hypnotic pupils in red and green. Around the edges of the subject's bushy eyebrows and unruly hair, colorful flecks that resemble digital artifacts mix with the deep black. The face is visually separated from the rest of the painting which gives the entire work a flat, graphic quality. Composed of delicately applied platinum leaf squares, the faint grid that results is reminiscent of traditional Japanese screens and artworks with similar aesthetics. Often referred to as the Warhol of Japan, the silver background also recalls the iconic Silver Liz paintings of Andy Warhol from the early 1960s.

There’s always a shadow of Warhol
Takashi Murakami

Though rightly linked to Japanese Pop art through his own Superflat ideologies, Murakami’s work is also based on a deep understanding of traditional methods and ideas. Having received his doctorate in nihonga, or Japanese traditional painting, the artist has made it the focus of his career to explore the confluence of high and low art forms in an effort to collapse the distinction between the two. Combining anime and manga forms with Zen figures and historic techniques, he brings to light the trajectory of art in Japan. I open wide my eyes… is particularly compelling for the way it pays homage to the Rinpa School, the Edo Period artists that included Ogata Kōrin and prioritized pattern and decorative elements like gold and lacquer, while also alluding to the startling ukiyo-e actor portraits of Tōshūsai Sharaku and their sparkling silver mica backgrounds.

Murakami’s oeuvre examines not only the characters and icons of contemporary culture but also the ways in which they are displayed and propagated. Talking about his catalyst for making art, he noted, "I set out to investigate the secret of market survivability—the universality of characters such as Mickey Mouse, Sonic the Hedgehog, Doraemon, Miffy, Hello Kitty, and their knock-offs, produced in Hong Kong" (T. Murakami, quoted by J. Howe, “The two faces of Takashi Murakami,” Wired, 2003). Leveraging these figures and their nearly instant recognition, Murakami created his own characters that were then branded, reproduced, and turned into icons as well. Working with fashion brands and designers to integrate his designs and figures into extant commercial markets, the artist has successfully collapsed the boundaries between his own art and the world of merchandising. By bringing historical imagery into the fray as he does with this example, he further questions art history’s role in consumer culture and the cult of recognition and fame attributed to various masterworks worldwide.

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