Untitled (Gold) is a large-scale, whimsical painting by Takashi Murakami, one of the most influential contemporary artists working today. The painting consists of an array of his trademark biomorphic mushroom shapes and fantastic little creatures, all of which are impossibly cute, with occasional overtones of menace and mischief.
Taking his cues from both high and low art, Murakami seamlessly combines them to create a dynamic and accessible art that speaks to the present while maintaining a dialogue with the past. In his ambitious Superflat manifesto that calls to mind Marinetti's Futurist and Breton's Surrealist art statements, he writes, "I would like you, the reader, to experience the moment when the layers of Japanese culture, such as pop, erotic pop, otaku and H.I.S.-ism fuse into one...'Super flatness' is an original concept of Japanese who have been completely Westernized. With this concept, seeds for the future have been sown. Let's search the future to find them. 'Super flatness' is the stage to the future" (T. Murakami, quoted in Super Flat: Takashi Murakami, Tokyo, 2000, p. 5).
Trained in classical Japanese painting techniques, Murakami uses the flattened space of his predecessors in Untitled (Gold), creating a bright gold background that is a frequent foil for traditional screens. The whimsical diversions of the 17th century works like Amusements under the Cherry Blossoms, with its distortions of scale and perspective all have their echoes in Murakami's work. The artist also draws inspiration from the world of otaku, an underground culture devoted to Japanese animation and comics. Untitled (Gold)'s sharply delineated forms are like a comic-book writ large, complete with soft, blob-like creatures worthy of Pokemon.
In a fortuitous coincidence, Reversed Double Helix, his largest and most ambitious sculptural project to date, is concurrently on view in the heart of Rockefeller Center. Untitled (Gold) and Reversed Double Helix share a number of similar motifs, including the mushroom form and the large round head, which have in the installation become seats and enormous balloons, respectively. An artist who is quickly making a niche for himself in art history, Untitled (Gold) is an outstanding example that illustrates the innovative artist's working methods and bears witness to the myriad strands of influence that comprise his work.
Detail of Royal visit to Ohara, Christie's, 16 September 2003, lot 119