Preview: Gagosian’s Three-Part Murakami Exhibition Straddles the Digital and Physical Art Worlds

Above image: Takashi Murakami, Clone X x Takashi Murkami, #5239 Red-eyed Girl, 2022, Acrylic on canvas mounted on aluminum frame, 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 inches, 100 x 100 cm, © 2022 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved, Courtesy Gagosian

From what we can tell, a coming generation has shifted the paradigm from that of culture driving technology, to exactly the opposite. Worryingly, Gen Z is more loyal to their brand of smartphone than they are to the art that they use it to consume – which is sort of like ordering really good food, and eating the plate instead.

This brings us to the real problem of the current craze for NFTs. With about a year to survey its dizzyingly rapid rise, one can reasonably observe that it is not at all an artist driven movement, but a medium driven one. Ho-hum.

This arguably puts Takashi Murakami into a whole new context. He has always been a cultivator of “pop,” and so many of his previous works felt like they had “popped” out of some virtual realm and onto a gallery floor. But for Gagosian he will be presenting a three-part exhibition of new works titled An Arrow Through History, opening May 11 and spread across their galleries at 976 and 980 Madison (the former was the site of his inaugural NYC solo show in 2007), that will blur the lines between reality and virtual reality.

Takashi Murakami, Murakami.Flower #0113 Throbbing, 2022
Acrylic on canvas mounted on aluminum frame, 23 5/8 x 23 5/8 inches, 60 x 60 cm,
© 2022 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., All rights reserved, Courtesy Gagosian

Notably, it will mark the gallery powerhouse’s first instance of VR, specifically Murakami’s digital rendering of 976/980 (how meta). And in a characteristically playful turn, visitors on-site can activate a number of custom designed Snapchat filters to be able to view augmented-reality animations throughout the galleries, as well as on the buildings’ exteriors. There’s also an immersive viewing experience, developed in conjunction with RTFKT and Oncyber, which allows anyone to access the exhibition online at or through a VR headset.

Specifically at 976 will be an exhibit of the 2021 Clone X series of NFT avatars, a reimagining of “portraiture” within the context of the metaverse. Those same NFTs will also be featured as real hand-painted portraits and figurative sculptures, Murakami cleverly straddling the physical and digital worlds, and surely sparking dialogue about cultural hierarchies in this, the early 21st Century.

“When I work on a creative production,” he explains, “I make no distinction between digital and analog. I’m always working in the context of contemporary art, and that context is all about whether I can be involved in events that manage to trigger a cognitive revolution.”

Takashi Murakami, Chinese Perch After Kitaōji Rosanjin, 2022
Acrylic on canvas mounted on wood panel, 59 x 59 in, 50 x 150 cm
© 2022 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved
Courtesy Gagosian

Over at 980, the fifth floor will be dedicated to paintings that refer to his Murakami.Flowers NFT project (2021–22). And surely only Murakami could develop a signature motif that has its roots in both pixilated 1980s Nintendo graphics, and the Buddhist principle of bonnō, which has to do with the satisfying of worldly desires. One flight up will be new paintings based on the fish motif on a Qinghua blue-and-white porcelain vase from the Chinese Yuan Dynasty (c. 1279–1368) – and thus the “arrow” through history.

“Takashi’s extraordinary new bodies of work celebrate his focus on both the physical and digital aspects of his practice,” enthuses Gagosian’s Nick Simunovic. “As an artist that is continuously engaging new audiences and developing new communities, we are particularly excited to add a virtual dimension to the exhibition which allows us, for the first time ever, to welcome visitors from all over the world.”

Takashi Murakami, An Arrow through History, will be on view at Gagosian’s 976 + 980 Madison galleries through June 25.

Above images from top:

Takashi Murakami, Murakami.Flower #4539 Fireworks, 2022, Acrylic on canvas mounted on aluminum frame 23 5/8 x 23 5/8 inches, 60 x 60 cm, © 2022 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved, Courtesy Gagosian

Takashi Murakami, Clone X x Takashi Murakami, #1 Murakami Arhat, 2022, Acrylic on canvas mounted on aluminum frame, 59 1/8 x 59 1/8 in, 150 x 150 cm, © 2022 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved, Courtesy Gagosian

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