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Takashi Murakami (1962 - )
Death: MultiRequest Viewing
Acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on aluminium frame
100 x 100 cm (39 ³/₈ x 39 ³/₈ inches)
Signed and dated 2015 on the reverse
Perrotin Gallery, New York
Private collection, Ireland, acquired from the above
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Tokyo: Art & Photography, 29 July 2021 - 3 January 2022 (illustrated p. 203-204)
In Death Multi the canvas is covered with smiling flowers, painted predominantly in bright red, yellow, purple and white, and occasional skulls. The word 'DEATH' that is scrawled on top of these introduces a stark sense of foreboding. Despite their bright colours and lighthearted Pop style, the skulls and flowers evoke Dutch vanitas still-life paintings that emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, reminding observers of their own inevitable demise.
Following the Great Töhoku Earthquake of 2011, Murakami became concerned with ephemerality as an artistic motif. He also began to explore Japanese art produced in response to historic natural disasters. The same series also features works that present a large enso-circle sprayed on top of the skulls and flowers, referencing traditional calligraphy and the Buddhist concept of impermanence. The skulls and smiling flower motifs are very much a hallmark for the artist making this painting very iconic. However, the bold words dripping down the canvas add a sense of violence and vandalism to the paintings, symbolising destruction and impermanence.
Death Multi reveal Murakami to be an artist born and raised in Tokyo - a city that has had consistently to reinvent itself after moments of natural disaster. The story of this metropolis is one of devastation and regeneration. In 2015, the same year in which these paintings were made, another major earthquake hit Tokyo with a magnitude of 8.5 on the Richter scale. Murakami, who has spoken candidly about how natural catastrophes have impacted his work, reminds us of human fragility. The paintings could be interpreted as Pop Art memento mori, compelling us to consider the vulnerability of our cities and ourselves.
This original painting by Takashi Murakami is available for sale.