Ego by Takashi Murakami @ Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Ego by Takashi Murakami @ Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

It is, in the superstar Japanese artist’s own words, “a dialogue with one’s own ego”.

The “Ego” exhibition marks the famed artist’s inaugural exhibition within the Middle East. Showcasing more than 60 works, it is the single largest display of Murakami’s artwork spanning a range of his work from 1997 to present. Easily one of the most notable displays arrives in the form of a massive self-reflective blowup version of Murakami himself filling a 7,500-square-foot space at the gallery.

Murakami – Ego features 70 of Murakami’s signature works – he is known for his manga-style images and sculptures that echo the precision of traditional Japanese art but which are created with modern techniques – from 1997 to the present, 16 works were specially commissioned for Qatar including his largest painted work to date, the 100m Arhat Painting (2012) that stretches around three sides of the main gallery space.

After show stopper retrospectives at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and at Chateau de Versailles, the final chapter of Takashi Murakami’s international trilogy of exhibitions is his biggest ( it features a 6m high inflatable sculpture of himself ) and best (this is the first show that brings together several important series in their entirely for the first time) yet

Upon entering Al Riwaq, visitors immediately encounter the artist in the form of the massive Self-Portrait Balloon (2012), a 6-meter high inflatable sculpture. In a striking difference from his signature anime-inspired style, Murakami depicts himself realistically, dressed in everyday clothes with the posture of a giant Budda sculpture, extending his hand outwards in a gesture of greeting

For the exhibition, Murakami realized his largest painted work to date. Arhat Painting (working title, 2012), stretches 100 meters, wrapping around three sides of the main gallery space, and is divided into four 25-meter sections devoted to wind, forest, fire and mountain. Conceived as a response to the recent natural disaster in Japan, the work draws on traditional historical painting to create a contemporary monument to the power of nature in Japanese life. Inspired by paintings produced by Japanese monks over 600 years ago in responses to earthquakes, floods and political turmoil of the period, the work is a stylistic departure for the artist.

“With the recent disasters, I was able to experience first hand the way that such catastrophes have served as the origin point for the spread of Japanese religion and culture. In the sense that Japan’s artistic tradition developed in the same way, this new piece is for me a kind of Guernica.”

Filled with his famous smiling flowers and the Murakami-created characters such as Kaikai and Kiki, the show is described as “Murakami City” by its curator Massimilano Gioni. “Takashi has conceived of the show as an urban experience, a walk into a gigantic artificial landscape, a science fiction environment,” explains Gioni. “For its scale and ambition it is an absolutely unique exhibition.”

Ego – features 60 works from 1997 to the present, with new works created for this specific exhibition.

The exhibition features the entire cast of characters from Murakami’s universe – like Mr. DOM, Kaikai and Kiki, and Oval Buddha – whose district personalities evolve over disparate works from cute to terrifying.

Given the conservative nature Qatar, notably absent appear to be some of Murakami’s bolder manga-inspired works in favor of some of his signature characters.

In his series of Porn & Me sculptures, Murakami appears with his real-life dog (produced in gold, platinum, bronze and carbon fiber) as an oversized collectible action hero. Significantly, he is depicted not as an adult but a childlike embodiment of the type of manga culture which formed his artistic approach. These works seem to suggest that if the viewers want to understand Murakami the individual, then they must look at the cultural context around him and the diverse visual references which shaped his own aesthetic.

Murakami’s signature smiling flowers are also represented in paintings, sculptures and curtains that drape the entrance to the exhibition.

On View Feb 9th – June 24th, 2012





Murakami – Ego will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with writings and notes by Takashi Murakami, an interview with exhibition curator Massimiliano Gioni, and images from the exhibition

More than just a rare opportunity to step inside the artist’s mind, the Murakami show is stellar in its further reaching concept. For the Qatar Museums Authority Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the show is about education (for the local community who would otherwise have to travel to discover Murakami’s work) and balance (Qatar is home to a powerful cultural programme that ranges from the traditional artefacts in the Museum of Islamic Art to subtle modern shows such as the recent Louise Bourgeois retrospective).

Indeed, it is Sheikha Al Mayassa’s vision that has seen QMA sponsor some of the world’s most important art events (the forthcoming Damien Hirst retrospective at the Tate, London, is underwritten by QMA) not with the aim of increasing tourism but instead to be able to bring these important artists to Qatar. Among other projects, QMA helped finance the Murakami retrospective at Versailles and Prada Foundation’s critically acclaimed exhibition at Palazzo Ca’ Corner della Regina during the Venice Biennale 2011.

Sheikha Al Mayassa explains her philosophy with her explanation of why she brought Murakami – Ego to Qatar: “The exhibition continues to advance QMA’s mission to encourage global cultural dialogue and exchange, as well as celebrates forty years of diplomatic relations between Qatar and Japan.”

Murakami – Ego is part of a series of cultural initiatives organized by the QMA to promote and support local and international art, foster conversations about artists and popular culture, and build bridges between cultures. At the time of the opening of Murakami – Ego, QMA also will present Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.

Murakami and the SuperFlat movement

Superflat is a postmodern art movement founded by the artist Takashi Murakami, which is influenced by manga and anime. It is also the name of a 2001 art exhibition, curated by Murakami, that toured West Hollywood, Minneapolis and Seattle.

In this short piece, Murakami explains about the SUPERFLAT concept and what he means by that. It has a lot to do with how he sees Japanese society today and how it has evolved since the end of the Pacific war in 1945 with the devastating attacks by the US using atomic weapons.

A central influence on the concept of ‘Superflat’ is the Japanese cartoon culture of manga where enthusiasts are lured into a magical world that is divorced from reality.
The insistent two-dimensionality of manga often results in an overall patterning of colors and shapes which provides a parallel space in which to escape from the pressures and expectations of society at large. All of the artists in ‘Superflat’ work between the established boundaries of their respective genres, for instance where fine art photography meets commercial photography, where painting meets illustration, or where fashion meets theatrical costuming.the ‘supe'” in ‘Superflat’ not only emphasizes the planar qualities of much of the work, but also denotes a special, charged characteristic or attitude. With ‘Superflat’ Murakami suggests a broader definition of contemporary art in japan and the wide range of activity within the exhibition can be seen as a direct challenge to the traditional borders and hierarchies between cultural genre

Jelly Fish eyes movie

Having already conquered an art world that has seen his anime-inspired characters embraced by the masses and his blissed-out flowers sprouted from the walls of the biggest collectors in the world, Takashi Murakami is now setting his sights on the the silver screen. With aspirations to bring his work to life using CGI for a monster movie like Godzilla, which was born out of fear of nuclear terror, his latest vision draws inspiration from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Titled Jellyfish Eyes, the movie follows a young boy who after an earthquake has to move with his family to an “experimental city” where each child is paired with a small monster. Murakami hopes to release his film later this year.

Filmmaking has always been a passion: “Childish, but not for children. With film I can exert complete control, but my influence on the real world around me is only about 60 %, I’d say. The other 40 % is taken up by employees with their own ideas and approaches,” says Murakami. “I’m the coach, the boss, and I like teamwork. I’m like a restaurant chef who has someone else do all the great cooking!”

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