WITH TAKASHI MURAKAMI
By Donna Dodson
On Saturday, October 14, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Shapiro Celebrity Lecture with con- temporary artist Takashi Murakami, in conversation with Japanese art histo- rian Professor Nobuo Tsuji, moderated by Anne Nishimura Morse, the William and Helen Pounds senior curator of Japanese art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Morse and Murakami both studied with Professor Tsuji, and Tsuji worked with Morse to catalog the MFA’s world-renowned Japanese art collection. The opening of “Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics” brought them together in a lineage of friendship, mentoring and collegiality, which was evident in the mood of the panel discussion.
Murakami talked about being an art- ist from the Far East. His plan was to make it big in the West and sell himself back to the East since, from his point of view, “Japanese love to import Western art and Western tastes.” When asked if he would travel this project to Japan, he said that in Japan, they consider him a fraud and they do not understand his work.
He has nearly 300 staff at Murakami studios. “Murakami sees himself as the architect who has the vision for the final project and sees it to com- pletion,” said Morse. He has had five major museum shows this year in Oslo, Norway; Moscow, Russia; Chicago, Illinois; Buffalo, New York and Boston, Mass. When asked what his own lineage is about, he said, “I am creating a world that will exist after I die.” Since he is 55 years old this year, Murakami is thinking about death but, he said, “I feel like I am alive when I am painting pictures.”
“Takashi Murakami: Lineage of
Eccentrics” is a visual conversation between past and present that jux- taposes nearly 30 works by several historic Japanese artists with 13 con- temporary works of art by Murakami. “The exhibition is organized to illumi- nate the conceptual underpinnings for Murakami’s art with concrete examples from the MFA’s historic collections. The relationship is not a linear one but a conceptual one,” said Morse. Published in 1970, the book that bears the same name, “Lineage of Eccentrics,” by Professor Tsuji, influenced a generation of scholars, artists and art historians and brought to light six artists from the Edo period who made unique contribu- tions to the history of Japanese art.
Traditional works of Japanese art in the MFA’s collection are exhibited with Murakami’s contemporary canvases and sculptures. The audience can dis- cover the same symbolism, narratives and characters in the historic and contemporary works of art. There are powerful affinities that exist between Murakami’s “Kawaii—Vacances” and the MFA’s “Poppies” (17th century, School of Tawaraya SŌtatsu); Murakami’s “EnsŌ: Hachiman—Black Circle on White” and Kawanabe Kyosai, “Hell Courtesan” and Murakami’s “Oval Buddha Silver” with “Shaka, the his- torical Buddha.” “My hope is that the accessibility of Murakami’s art today will give visitors a new appreciation for the historic Japanese collection,” Morse said.