Takashi Murakami has dazzled the art and fashion worlds alike for decades, so it’s only fitting that his newest exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art also marks the Chicago institution’s special 50th birthday. Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats His Own Leg, the artist’s new retrospective that showcases three decades of his paintings, features some of his earliest and most mature works, as well as new never-before-seen pieces. The exhibit is curated by MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling and is on display from June 6 to September 24, presented in partnership with ComplexCon.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, which has brought Chicagoans the coolest and most cutting-edge modern artwork for the last 50 years, called on Murakami to celebrate the landmark anniversary. Murakami’s signature style, which he’s proudly named Superflat, is influenced and inspired by folklore and pop culture and immediately draws the viewer into his unique world. His art fuses traditional Japanese painting techniques with a modern, flattened picture plane inspired by Japanese anime and manga.
“Takashi was interested in Chicago because of its hip-hop and urban culture,” says Darling. “We’ve worked together over the years and he has never shown an exhibit in Chicago before, until now. He was excited by our city, particularly because of the culture and audience here.”
His immense popularity over the last few decades has earned him the nickname “the Warhol of Japan,” and he’s also received attention from some of the most sophisticated and influential artists and fashion designers of today. Murakami has lent his artistic touch and brilliance to the most influential pop icons, like Kanye West, and fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton.
A decade ago, West enlisted Murakami to create the cover artwork for his highly acclaimed third studio album Graduation. The signature character on the album, aptly named the Kanye Bear, was created by Murakami and personified the complex rapper’s adolescence. The cover, beloved by both West fans and music critics, even inspired Murakami to create a sculpture of the bear.
Even earlier than that, in 2003, Louis Vuitton commissioned Murakami to redesign the fashion house’s iconic monogram logo, creating a partnership that lasted for more than a decade, until 2015. The collection featured Murakami’s signature pop art–inspired colorful palette on a clean white background, which caught the eyes of celebrities such as Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton.
In addition to the new group of paintings being revealed to the public for the first time, there’s the exhibit’s centerpiece: a 114-foot work consisting of more than 35 panels. And if you’re wondering about the inspiration behind the exhibit’s eccentric name, it stems from Japanese folklore regarding the process of rejuvenation. An octopus with a damaged leg can chew it off to make sure it survives, with a new one subsequently growing in its place. This metaphoric influence is evident in Murakami’s style of fusing prior works and Japanese history to create new ones.
Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art from June 6 to September 24. Whether you’re a pop-culture fan or an art enthusiast, the exhibit is sure to inspire and dazzle.
For more information, visit mcachicago.org.
Photo of Murakami by Claire Dorn, courtesy of MCA Chicago “Murakami”