You’ve likely seen this flower at least once, maybe on a t-shirt, as a giant pillow, printed on a purse , or in tons of streetwear. It was created by Takasi Murakami, a Japanese artist who works in fine art and sculpture as well as collaborating with fashion brands to create merchandise that uses his work, including his iconic flower.
I was excited to talk about a current Japanese artist for our blog because L Royalty has always been inspired by Japanese fashion! In particular, the Lolita and Decora Girl subcultures, both of which you can read about in my earlier posts.
Murakami was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1962. As a child, he was always interested in Japanese art and animation, especially the styles seen in anime and manga. He first attended the Tokyo University of the Arts, hoping to become an animator in Japan, but ended up majoring in Nihonga, a more traditional style of Japanese painting. After studying traditional art in Japan, he found himself frustrated by the stricter rules and politics of fine art, and wanted to branch out into more contemporary art. He believed that Japanese art had become a “a deep appropriation of Western trends.”, and wanted to work to make his own, uniquely Japanese work.
He was granted an opportunity to study in New York at the PS1 International Studio Program. This was an important step for his career, because he wanted to learn from Western artists and gain approval from them, hoping this would help boost his popularity in Japan. There, he learned about American contemporary artists whose work inspired him, including Jeff Koons. Recognizing that there was a lack of a market for art in Japan, he decided that he would work to establish himself as an artist in the Western world and then return to Japan. When looking for inspiration for his work, instead of referencing Japanese high art, he looked to “low”, commercial art instead, such as anime and manga.
Murakami created a new term to describe this aesthetic, “Superflat”. He believed that this term could encompass what made Japanese art unique from its Western counterparts. The art theory is defined by the focus on two-dimensional work, sharp lines, and flat color that had been a hallmark of Japanese art for decades. The artist’s theory of Superflat was also a commentary on the art of post-war Japanese society, in which there was less distinction between “high” and “low” art. This concept means that Murakami is constantly working to blur the lines between fine and commercial art, drawing inspiration from Japanese pop culture and also working with brands to put out his artwork on merchandise so that anyone can afford it. It’s important to Murakami that his work is not only available to look at in a museum, but to be accessible to anyone.
One of Murakami’s most famous collaborators is Louis Vuitton. He has created many prints for the brand that allow for his work to be printed onto the company’s iconic bags.
He has also worked with many famous musicians to produce content for them, including the cover of Kanye West’s 2007 album Graduation and Billie Eilish’s music video for her song you should see me in a crown. For Eilish, he used his talents in animation to create an anime-style music video for her song. Even more recently, they collaborated with UNIQLO to create a line of t-shirts that combine Eilish’s name and image with Murakami’s artwork. The entire collection is priced at $15 or less, and you can shop for it here.
Most recently, Murakami collaborated with Supreme to create one of their signature box logo tees with his flower symbol, the proceeds of which went to COVID-19 relief.
Here at L. Royalty, we have always appreciated and been inspired by Japanese art, whether that be in the form of streetwear and fashion, manga and anime, or fine art by creators like Murakami. As an artist, he has allowed the “Superflat” style of bright colors and bold lines to be worked into the mainstream art and fashion in the United States and across the world.