From Tokyo with Love

Takashi Mu­rakami brings 30 years of art—as well as new mas­ter­pieces—to the MCA Chicago

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PER­HAPS HIS NAME DOESN’T RING A BELL, BUT YOU’VE UN­DOUBT­EDLY SEEN TAKASHI MU­RAKAMI’S WORK.

In 2002, the Ja­panese artist rose to in­ter­na­tional fame when Marc Ja­cobs (then the lead de­signer for Louis Vuit­ton) tapped him to re­design the fash­ion house’s iconic mono­gram. The two in­cor­po­rated Mu­rakami’s col­or­ful flower car­toons on hand­bags, which were a giant com­mer­cial suc­cess. Soon, more high-pro­file part­ner­ships rolled in: In 2007, Mu­rakami cre­ated the al­bum art for Kanye West’s “Grad­u­a­tion,” in 2014 he cre­ated a mu­sic video with Phar­rell.

Now, the man who’s been her­alded as Ja­pan’s an­swer to Andy Warhol is bring­ing his ret­ro­spec­tive, “The Oc­to­pus Eats Its Own Leg,” to the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art Chicago. From June 6 to Septem­ber 24, 30 years of the artist’s work will be on dis­play, as well as sev­eral giant new pieces (some of which will still be dry­ing when the ex­hibit opens). It’s in these larger-than-life cre­ations that Mu­rakami at­tempts to find in­spi­ra­tion. “I can­not read­ily en­counter fresh ideas,” he ad­mits. “I spend my days des­per­ately hop­ing to find frag­ments of ideas by im­mers­ing my­self in my art­work through the pro­duc­tion of these enor­mous paint­ings and sculp­tures.”

There’s hardly a form of art Mu­rakami hasn’t dab­bled in: tra­di­tional Ja­panese paint­ings, an­i­méin­spired car­toons, sculp­tures and even com­mer­cial fash­ion and mu­sic. But his cur­rent ob­ses­sion is film. “I am mak­ing movies and an­i­ma­tions, [be­cause] weav­ing nar­ra­tives is a new ex­pe­ri­ence for me,” he says. “It lets me re­fresh my brain.”

As his suc­cess and fame con­tinue to rise—and his works fetch higher and higher prices—Mu­rakami feels more in­ner tur­moil. “I’m of­ten in­ter­viewed as a suc­cess­ful per­son and that re­ally trou­bles me,” he says. “Some days I fear be­ing left be­hind by the very in­dus­try in which I work, con­stantly deal­ing with press­ing dead­lines for new works and the need to come up with new ideas.”

Rather than let fears sti­fle his in­ge­nu­ity, Mu­rakami takes a more grate­ful ap­proach: “I am at the mercy of my des­tiny and am liv­ing in a present that I could not have imag­ined,” he says. “I feel hon­ored to now find my­self work­ing in the world that I once ad­mired.” At least in our opin­ion, it’s a world that is hon­ored to have him.

Sug­gested ad­mis­sion, $12. 220 E. Chicago Ave., 312.280.2660, mcachicago.org

Takashi Mu­rakami in front of his work. Be­low: “Flow­ers, flow­ers, flow­ers” by Mu­rakami

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