The Superflat Movement: Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami is one of the most celebrated artists to arise from postwar Asia. He is known for his brightly colored and psychotically cheerful works that have propelled him to fame in the contemporary art scene (The Broad). Murakami amalgamates Japanese pop culture referents with Japan’s rich artistic heritage, meritoriously annihilating any distinction between commodity and high art. He has successfully synthesized fine pop art and popular culture by using colorful anime, powerful graphics and manga cartoon style. In the 1990s he became famous through his Superflat theory and organizing the archetypal exhibitions that showed the origin of the link between modern visual cultures to historical Japanese art (Niu ET al.715). Murakami’s productions include statues, drawings, anime, and portraits.

Murakami’s art has numerous key ideas depending on the form of output. First, his anime-inspired sculptures where characters have luscious breasts squirting jet-streams of milk, exaggeratedly jovial caricature characters with sharp teeth, and nauseatingly cute paintings of smiling daisies reveals themes of the Japanese Otaku culture that was obsessed with the fantasy world in anime (Kaichiro, and Washburn 2). The oversexualized sculptures and anime with their imminent physical manifestation and position on the white canvass reminds viewers that this is high-end art. According to Savage, the inclusion of the feminine cuteness and falsification in sculptures mirrors the Otaku subculture’s underbelly pornography where purity and girlhood are inconsistently cherished and fetishized (43). Underneath the cartoonish and superficially tasteless surfaces, the figurines and anime show Murakami’s crippling criticism of Japan’s culture after World War 2 (Borggreen 48). It reveals present-day Japan’s fixation with prettiness and adolescence that resulted in vicious sexual retrospective and nefarious fascinations.

Besides, Murakami’s work is an in-depth condemnation of the western invasion of Japan especially the devastating nuclear bombing. The bombing resulted in sanctions against Japan and permanent United States military presence in Japan. He considers Japan’s modern obsession with violence, fetish, youthful innocence and cuteness to be a consequence of US intervention that started with the bombing. His defiance of the west and its dominance especially in art is affirmed with the creation of the ‘Superflat’ movement that introduces the perspective of the historical Japanese artistic movement as well as merging art with commerce. He has successfully lured a large audience to his pieces through their bright and easy candy floss aesthetics. Murakami’s movement has enabled him to produces pieces that sell for millions of dollars alongside affordable trinkets that sell for a few dollars. Consequently, he has successfully shuttered the elitism and superiority of the art universe while simultaneously making economic gains from it.

Patently, Murakami’s work is valuable, incarnates the Japanese art and is worth respecting because it obliterates any distinction between contemporary and antique style. Unlike his peers, Murakami communicates the raw essence of the Japanese obsession with cuteness, sex, and violence in candy floss mode that is appealing to a broad audience thereby minimizing the elitism and superiority of art. The proficiently fashioned, fantastic pieces successfully trigger memories in the Japanese community especially the otaku subcultures obsession with pornography and fantasy world. Although the Superflat Movement has inspired a contemporary generation of Japanese artists, Murakami’s style is a blatant caricature and distortion of contemporary Japan as it can easily be perceived as a promoter of pornography, violence and other dark fetishes. Murakami can be regarded for not only conquering the elitism of art but for also successfully linking art to commerce and making a living out of it. This inspires contemporary artists to pursue their talents.



Works Cited

Borggreen, Gunhild. “Cute and Cool in Contemporary Japanese Visual Arts.” The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 29, no. 1, 2013, pp. 39. doi:10.22439/cjas.v29i1.4020.

Kaichiro, Morikawa, and Dennis Washburn. “おたく Otaku/Geek.”Review of Japanese Culture and Society, pp. 25 (2013): 56-66.

Niu, Han-Jen et al. “An Exploratory Study of the Otaku Adolescent Consumer.” Psychology & Marketing, vol. 29, no. 10, 2012, pp. 712-725. Wiley, doi:10.1002/mar.20558. Accessed 19 Feb 2019.

Savage, Shari L. “Just Looking: Tantalization, Lolicon, and Virtual Girls.” Visual Culture & Gender 10 (2015): 37-46.

The Broad. “Takashi Murakami – Bio | The Broad.” The Broad, 2019, Accessed 19 Feb. 2019.

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