High art and commercialism collide in the Superflat originator's splashy Brooklyn Museum retrospective.
Wed Feb 20 2008
Infuse a Jeff Koons piece with a dose of Pokémon and you get the aesthetic of Takashi Murakami. The 46-year-old artist’s smiley-faced flowers, mushroom-headed characters and anime heroes—all part of an aesthetic he dubbed Superflat, after the two-dimensional style of Japanese cartoons—question consumer pop culture by using the vocabulary of the mainstream itself. The artist’s most comprehensive retrospective to date takes over the Brooklyn Museum’s 18,500 square feet of gallery space this spring. The show’s 90-plus pieces, which will be shipped in on seven tractor trailers and one flatbed, include a fully functioning Louis Vuitton shop (Murakami partnered with the handbag maven in 2003 to create the wildly successful pop-hued version of Vuitton’s iconic monogrammed bag), and several room-size installations, as well as a bevy of paintings, sculptures and video work. Apr 5–Jul 13
Visitors will be greeted by a 19-foot-high candy-colored monster sculpture named Mr. Pointy (or Ten gari-kun). This kooky representative of the artist’s work got a starring role in the museum lobby not because he’s the conceptual centerpiece of the show, but rather as a result of his size. “His head won’t fit in any of the galleries,” says the Brooklyn Museum’s chief designer, Matthew Yokobosky. A team of 28 people will have to remove several doors on the museum’s facade to get the fiberglass-and-steel creature inside.
“Mr. Pointy was originally meant for an American hospital,” says Murakami. “I wanted to send a message to the children there.” That plan morphed into an installation for Rockefeller Center in 2003. The 6,000-pound monster comes in seven pieces bolted together on top of a 20-foot-wide platform that must be remade for every show. “The museum was built in the 19th century, when they weren’t making sculpture that gigantic,” explains Yokobosky. “We had to get a structural engineer here to confirm that the floor could hold the weight.”
“Balloons are easy to ship—they weigh close to nothing,” says Murakami of the massive piece with the face of his trademark character, DOB. “I developed these as a way to participate in prestigious shows, back when museums weren’t willing to pay for shipping costs of heavier works,” he adds. “When I achieved a certain status, and costs were no longer a problem, the requests for balloons mysteriously stopped.”