Pop Life exhibition banner

With the launch of his multinational company Kaikai Kiki Co, Ltd in the early 1990s, Takashi Murakami radically expanded Warhol’s model of factory production and forged a distinctively Japanese form of Pop art. Employing several hundred assistants to design and fabricate his fine art works as well as various product lines, Kaikai Kiki has allowed Murakami to pursue an ambitious campaign to reassert Japan’s cultural relevance.

As well as drawing inspiration from the visual styles of Japanese popular culture – from the geeky otaku world of science fiction, anime and manga to the cute kawaii aesthetic – Murakami has coined the term ‘superflat’ to link the distinctive treatment of space in Japanese art to a levelling out between high and popular culture. Accordingly, he moves freely among fine art, fashion, pop music, animation and new media, giving equal weight to all of them. Murakami’s retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, for example, incorporated a Louis Vuitton outlet in the middle of the exhibition, selling merchandise that the artist had designed for the fashion label.

Murakami has conceived his Pop Life gallery as a reflection of his collaborations and activities that cross over into the ‘real’ world. It includes jewellery and accessories that Murakami has made with established designers and celebrities, such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Also featured is the short film made by the artist in collaboration with Hollywood director McG about Akihabara, Tokyo’s manga epicentre. To translate this subculture for a Western audience, film star Kirsten Dunst was cast as Majokko (‘magical princess’) an anime archetype watched by girls in Japan. The room also includes references to GEISAI, Murakami’s spectacular annual Tokyo art fair which provides a platform for emerging artists as well as a gathering place for various sub-cultural groups.