Murakami sculpture at Ego (2011) press conference, via QMA facebook
The Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) presents Murakami – Ego at the Museum of Islamic Art‘s detached Al Riwaq hall in Doha as Japanese artist Takashi Murakami‘s first solo show in the Middle East. Introducing Japanese contemporary art and animation style to a broader audience, the QMA has also published an illustrated catalog on Ego with commentary by Takashi Murakami, curator Massimiliano Gioni, and photo-documentation of the site. For Ego—referencing the retrospective’s psychological emphasis—Murakami designed sculptural pedestals, a 100-meter wall painting, and a digital animated circus tent to double as an indoor cinema. The retrospective features fifteen years’ worth of 60 works, most of which are on loan from both public and private international collections, although some art is new. Viewers entering the hall are greeted by an oversize inflatable self-portrait to personify the explained internal mindset.
Takashi Murakami’s animania tent (2011), via Huffington Post
Murakami’s trademark ‘Superflat’ is evident throughout the showcase. Superflat style originated in 2000 with a thusly named exhibition, rooting contemporary works in historical Japanese art painting technique and compositions. Combining the sexual shunga of the Edo period and the yōga of Western-style Meiji period with anime and Pop elements of the modern day, the fusion takes on a phantasmagorical appeal.
Newly created works support the egocentric showcase, including Pom and Me, (Pom being Murakami’s dog) and Kaikai kiki Lots of Faces. Kaikai kiki is the name of Murakami’s art collective in Japan. Named ‘the Hiropan factory’ when it was founded in 1996, the group supports both his own projects and emerging artists. Murakami is more than an artist in Japan; he is a curator, critic, and festival host for his GEISAI introduction of young artists.
The design for the 337,000 square foot Museum of Islamic Art was completed by then-91-year-old I.M. Pei in 2008, previously known for designing the pyramid at the Musee du Louvre. When Pei commenced research on the Louvre pyramid, he doggedly studied building roots throughout Europe and North Africa. QMA director Sheika Al Mayassa, the Emir of Qatar’s daughter and the nation’s premier contemporary visionary, approved of Pei’s methodological passion on her mission to strengthen the Middle East. For the Museum of Islamic Art, Pei blended the modern and traditional motifs after a similar span of research.
Sheika Al Mayassa told the New York Times upon museum completion that the nation’s upward mobility intends “to reconnect the historical threads that have been broken, and finding peaceful ways to resolve conflict.” Murakami himself is privy to the political message of peace in Qatar, attending the Ego opening in cohesion with the launch of this year’s celebration of diplomatic relations between Qatar and Japan, which have endured four decades.
Qatari support has previously backed Murakami. According to The Art Newspaper, his 2010 showcase at the Palais de Versailles in France was sponsored by the nation’s €2.5 million. Murakami was chosen for the exhibition because he was considered a “high-media friendly” figure, which also resonates in terms of business. Paris is the home city of both art advisor Phillipe Segalot and Christie’s owner Francois Pinault. Segalot advises both Qatar and Pinault, all of whom support Murakami. Qatar reportedly placed a bid to buy Christie’s auction house in 2010, and recently publicized a purchase with the aid of Segalot of a $250 million Cézanne (see AO article), the most expensive purchase of a single work in history. The continuation after Murakami’s Paris exhibition goes along with Qatar’s recent French purchase and expansion.
Another major French conglomerate is LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Henessy). LVMH’s Louis Vuitton collaborated with Murakami on a collection of colorful handbags, a departure from Louis Vuitton’s trademark tan and gold pattern.
Murakami was born and educated in Tokyo, Japan. He received his BFA, MFA, and PhD in Nihonga painting from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. His first major international exhibition was held at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin 1995, and in consequent decades he has shown in Tokyo, Paris, Frankfurt, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Bilbao.
Exhibition Site [Qatar Museums Authority]
Exhibition Site [Museum of Islamic Art]
Artist Site [KaiKaiKiki]
Murakami in the Middle East [Economist]
Takashi Murakami « EGO » exhibition – Qatar Museum preview installation [BKRW]
TAKASHI MURAKAMI « EGO » exhibition Video interview exclusive [BKRW]
Breaking: Qatar purchase of $250-$300 million ‘Card Players’ by Paul Cézanne is most expensive art sale in history [Art Observed]
Murakami is no competition for the Sun King [The Art Newspaper]
I.M. Pei Designed Museum of Islamic Art to Open in Qatar, November [Art Observed]
Takashi Murakami at the Palace of Versailles [Telegraph]
Takashi Murakami [Gagosian Gallery]
For I.M. Pei, History is Still Happening [NY Times]
Murakami for Louis Vuitton [LV]
An Emirate Filling Up With Artwork [NY Times]