Murakami and Malone unite in a “flower butterfly” collaboration

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s visions range from colorful smiling flowers to a zany interpretation of Mickey Mouse to giant erotic sculptures of animated characters that have fetched huge auction prices.

His latest album takes a musical path in collaboration with American rapper and singer Post Malone.

“To be honest, I really started listening to him after the pandemic hit and we were stuck at home all day. I became a huge fan,” Murakami said, citing the social restrictions and emotional distress that came with COVID-19.

Murakami created various artworks and products that were on display at a pop-up store in Los Angeles during Malone’s tour for his latest album, Twelve Carat Toothache.

The custom t-shirts, hoodies and trucker hats, along with mugs and other merchandise, will also be available online Monday on NTWRK, a US shopping live stream service.

Malone’s music makes him hum along, like karaoke, and gives him a positive feeling, he said in an online interview with The Associated Press.

“It’s soft, but the sound is complex. It’s at the height of hip-hop music, but it has a real melody to it. I fell in love with his sound,” Murakami said.

Typical of the spirit of their collaboration is an image that places Murakami’s floral image alongside the butterfly, Malone’s symbol, to become two eyes over a curve: a smiley face winking.

“It’s a flower and a butterfly, like a marriage,” Murakami said.

Malone expressed his delight at the pieces together in a video of their meeting earlier this month.

Murakami has collaborated with other musicians including Pharrell Williams and Drake. Hip hop, dance music, and other contemporary American music are major sources of inspiration for Murakami. He often plays music when he draws to “get his brain juices going,” he said.

But when his company was on the brink of bankruptcy shortly after the pandemic began, he listened to Rachmaninoff the whole time. Over time, people opened up to investment and even sought art as part of the healing process. Sales skyrocketed and his business recovered, Murakami recalled.

Known as the “Andy Warhol of Japan,” Murakami has exhibited at the Rockefeller Center in New York and the Palace of Versailles in France, receiving both praise and criticism for his unabashed commercialism.

Murakami has around 200 assistants who help create sometimes large-scale works of art, be they laughing flowers, psychedelic skulls, or deformed old men. His signature symbol, which some say is a self-portrait but he insists like all his artwork is just a part of himself, is the Mickey Mouse-esque “Mr. Date of birth.”

A student of traditional Japanese painting at the prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts, Murakami’s art is rooted in the Japanese heritage of the Edo-era woodblock masters.

Murakami coined the term “superflat” to describe his style associated with such a story, evident in his emphasis on clear outlines that contrast with the more realistic perspective and form of Western art.

It’s fitting that another dazzling work of art he’s recently created is a giant curtain in Tokyo’s Kabuki Theater, a traditional performance art that blends dance, music and drama dating back to the 17th century.

Murakami’s renderings of the various roles played by the main character, such as samurai and street vendors, in his manga-like style, are spread across the stage on a giant cloth.

Usually kabuki curtains depict flowers and birds, always calmer and more sparse.

Murakami feels least valued in his home country. He thinks Japanese don’t like that his work is confident and sassy, ​​not fluffy cute.

While based in Saitama north of Tokyo, he was increasingly in demand overseas. Next he will be in Dubai and Indonesia. He’s a superstar in China.

Murakami’s face turns a bit sad as he says he expects he only has a few more years to do his art. His father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when he was 70. Murakami is 60. He believes fate is in his genes.

“I’ve thought a lot about the true purpose of being an artist, and I think it’s to leave information for the future of what the artist sees in the real world. My job is to leave what I see through my own filter,” he said.

“That’s what I want to keep doing.”

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