Even if you haven’t heard of Takashi Murakami, chances are you’ve still come into contact with his work without realising. The once-underground artist has exploded into pop culture with a legion of high profile followers accumulating over a decade. Kanye West, an early celebrity devotee, even had the Japanese artist design the cover artwork for his Grammy Award-winning album ‘Graduation’ in 2007. Since then he has featured Murakami works in music videos, shows, and he even uses with Louis Vuitton x Murakami 'Monogramflauge' designed luggage when vacationing with Kim and co.
Hip hop superstar Pharrell Williams is another avid fan and collector, emblazoning the artist’s illustrations on items from his own fashion brand, Billionaire Boys Club apparel. Pharrell admits his prized possession is an original of Murakami’s Flower Ball because it ‘makes people smile’. Other owners of Murakami originals include Leonardo DiCaprio (who purchased ‘Mononoke’ at a Christie’s auction) and Paris Hilton (who recently posted a photo next to her own ‘Pink And Then DOB’).
Who is Takashi Murakami?
Takashi Murakami’s incredible career spans over thirty years. He has been exhibited in the world’s most prestigious galleries including New York’s MOMA, collaborated with huge names in music and fashion, and inspired a modern art movement with his distinctive ‘superflat’ style. He has been dubbed the ‘Japanese Andy Warhol’ and his work falls under the ‘otaku’ genre – a popular term to describe those with an obsessive interest in anime and manga.
To meet the obsession on a mass market level, he also has his own art production and management corporation called Kaikai Kiki Co. It produces and distributes merchandise themed around his characters and designs, including art books, cushions, fashion, phone accessories, dolls and kitchenware. The other arm of Kaikai Kiki Co. manages the careers of his protégés, acting like that of a record label under Murakami’s guidance. Notable artists signed with Kaikai Kiki Co. include Chiho Aoshima, Mr. and Madsaki.
What his pieces are worth
The value of Takashi Murakami artwork peaked 2008 when his life-sized fibreglass sculpture ‘My Lonesome Cowboy’ sold for a staggering $13.5 million at Sotheby's in New York. The piece is a wacky anime-inspired figure of a boy whose semen stream forms a gigantic lasso around his head. In terms of paintings, ‘The Castle of Tin Tin’ set the record for the artist’s paintings in 2012 when it achieved a hammer price of $3.7 million, again at Sotheby’s New York.
How you can get a Murakami piece
Limited edition prints are a great way of collecting pieces from your favourite artists without the extortionate price tags that come with buying original works. “An original by Takashi Murakami will cost several hundreds of thousands of Singaporean Dollars, but a limited edition print cost as little as 2500 SGD”, says Chris Belmont of Kumi Contemporary, who specialises in Japanese Contemporary art, especially Takashi Murakami prints. These prints are numbered and signed by the artist and increase in value over time as they become scarce. He says that collectors in Hong Kong and Singapore combined make up the biggest portion of Kumi’s global customer share. “Takashi Murakami has a huge following in Asia, and those regions are especially savvy when it comes to collecting hot Japanese artists, at least while the rest of the world play catch up.”
Images courtesy of Kumi Contemporary