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Published by Laurene Leon Boym

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Published by: Laurene Leon Boym on Jun 02, 2012
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eeling insouciant and chatty, I asked the man driving me aroundDoha in a Karwa cab i he knew about Takashi Murakami’s art. We were on the ride over to a cartoonestooned warehouse, AlRiwaq, on the Corniche hosting the Japanese art superstar’s rstexhibition in the Middle East, titled “Ego”. The driver replied inBollywood English singspeak: “Oh yes, that’s the yaar (riend)who tagged my car.”I giggled because I knew exactly what the man was gettingat. All the aquacolored Karwa cabs in the city at the momentare covered in the “advertising wrap”, a temporary whole carbody peelo sticker. This particular ullbody happy foweradvertisement eatures the Murakami show, which is on view until June 24,2012. Yes, Murakami had accomplished the taking o the whole city! Even i or alimited time. At this moment, I was traveling in a kinetic work o art, or at least amobile billboard. Takashi is inevitably smiling down on random scenes like thesesomewhere between art and commerce. This is his territory.Following major retrospectives at the Museum o Contemporary Art, Los Angelesand at the Château de Versailles, “Murakami – Ego” is the nal chapter in a trilogy o exhibitions that have established Takashi Murakami as one o the most ascinatingartists working today. This new exhibition, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, willeature more than 60 works rom 1997 to the present, on loan rom leadinginternational institutions and private collections, as well as several new workscreated especially or this show.THE ARTIST IN RETROSPECTIVEIn 2012, predictably, Japan’s Takashi Murakami will again be one o the topgrossingliving artists next to the likes o the UK’s selappointed naughty boy, Damien Hirst,and the American savant provocateur Je Koons. For insiders and enthusiasts,Murakami’s ubiquitous place on the art scoreboard is a nobrainer, as his seeminglychildlike creative output is the meticulously painted workproduct o a careully crated brand. It’s the artworldequivalent o eating a McDonald’s Big Mac in a Prada dress.Two tastes that go great together: High Art, Pop Culture.Nonetheless, Murakami’s bluechip, Japanese, otakuobsessed anboyinspired work was not the vanguardmoment in harvesting the high art, pop culture in thecontemporary art market. Unlike his proessed spiritualmentor, the American pop artist Andy Warhol, Murakamihas been unusually successul in this ability to create workor sale in every art market niche available: high, low and inbetween. Other artists ailed where Murakami succeeded.Thus spoke the art market’s Master o the Universe o allthings anime and manga:“I set out to investigate the secret o market survivability the universality o characters such as Mickey Mouse, Sonicthe Hedgehog, Doraemon, Miy, Hello Kitty, and theirknockos, produced in Hong Kong,” said Murakami on hismeritorious career trajectory (2001).In 2001, almost 15 years into his career in the internationalart market, Murakami wrote a maniesto on his artisticdestiny and drew the roadmap or his unolding art career.That exhibit, titled “Superfat”, was the summary o whatMurakami had been up to until that juncture and wouldcontinue to execute masterully into the next ew decadeso his career as an artist. The paintings and a sculpture o “Superfat” at rst glance “appeared” ridiculously simple,but his work magically transorms beore the viewer’s eyesto become a rabbit hole o what it means to produce art
hIgh arT,
POP CulTure
Lurn Lon boyxplorstkshi murki’s 
xhiiion, showcsd y h Qr musus auhoriy
A detail o a Eeball paitigshows paistakig cratsmashipb Murakami's 200+ perso crew.
(with emphasis on the productionaspects).It begins with a recipe. A largeproportion o Murakami’s artisticoutput is transparently executedby a team o trained art workers.Starting with a base o a painterlystyle, activated by a physicalfattening o the surace, its catalystis Japanese social culture.During a rare public interviewwith the Doha “Ego” exhibitioncurator, Associate Director at NewYork’s New Museum MassimilianoGioni, Murakami explained hisartistic output in cinematic terms.He tries to think o every projecthe undertakes in the same creativeterms as a Hollywood directorwould develop a lm ranchise suchas
Star Wars
.Gioni himsel has a similar view,as he sees Murakami at the centero a small empire. “The wayTakashi works is to collaboratewith hundreds o assistants,collaborators and riends. Aroundhim is a structure that makes hiswork so much more powerul,and the preparation o a showsomething akin to the building o alittle city.The exhibition “Ego” is Takashi’scity, which is somewhere betweenJapan, Las Vegas and Doha. It’s anapt metaphorical analogy or theartist’s personal inner dialogue,which recently shited rom theglories o ame and ortune towardspirituality. Ignited by the catalysto the recent earthquake in Japanand the subsequent nuclear disasterat Fukushima, the artist made aull circle back to his rst passion,Nihonga and Japanese art history.  WALK THROUGHEntering the lobby o the “Ego”exhibition, it’s the visual analogyo a busy street intersection on5th Avenue in New York. In lieu o a large SpongeBob SquarePantsblowup gurine, an oversized(Ego, get it?) representationalstreet parade balloon sculptureo Murakami as Buddah greetsvisitors. Happily, every museumgoer can be part o Murakami’scinematic vision. It’s a dreamliketitle sequence ramed by “Flowersrom the village o Pokoton”printed curtains and o coursea store selling everything romacetate Murakami leoldersor QR100, Kaikai Kiki Plush™character pillows, to an almosttwometer diameter “GiganticPlush Flowerball Big” orQR1,450,000. The Murakami popup shop and its massproduced “artor everyone” is a tip o the hat tothe beloved late American painterand sculptor Keith Haring. Highlyinfuential and (notably) a secondgeneration disciple o Warhol,Haring opened the rst trulycommercial massproduced artshop, called “Pop Shop”, in 1985,around the time Murakami wasgraduating rom Arts Universityin Japan. For nearly 20 years, in aprime location in New York City’sSoHo area, Haring’s Pop Shopsold aordable clothing and gititems all eaturing Keith Haring’sunique icons. It was the original artsouvenir shop.The rst artestooned room mademe smile again. Candycoloredand irresistible. Dedicated toMurakami’s insidious study o pop culture is a huge sculptureo DOB in the Strange Forest. MrDOB (b.1993) is Murakami’s mostubiquitous and enduring character.Surrounded by threedimensionalcartoonlike mushrooms, using hisTan Tan Bo Puking (aka Gero Tan)painting as a backdrop, you eel likeyou’ve entered another world, orat least Fondation Cartier in Parisback in 2002.
Eter the greatroom. The show isjust gettig good, ad the movieseries is about to start i the tet.Behold happ flowers o alarge scale sculpturesimulatig the plasticvacuum ormig process.

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