Murakami Paints Himself Warhol

Warhol/Silver, 2009.Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Courtesy Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris.


It’s generally regarded as simplistic to call Takashi Murakami the “Japanese Andy Warhol.” Murakami’s puns on pop art are so deliberate as to be readily identified as red herrings, and exclude the themes of labor and ethnography.

Of course Murakami encourages the comparison, and by way of so emphatically insisting that there is no difference between himself and Warhol, demonstrates there are a few difference—and the conditions why that must be so. Murakami’s latest solo show at Emanuel Perrotin in Paris, of works he calls “Self-Portraits,” includes several pieces that are direct homage to Warhol himself. Two large tondos face each other; titled “Warhol/Silver” and “Warhol/Gold,” they even make reference by title, and feature Murakami’s signature, saccharine, anime characters. But Murakami gets its all wrong, conflating Warhol’s flower series with his Gold Marilyns, and rendering all of it an artful pastiche. That same abstract gold and silver background is also a reference to the 19th Century Nihonga style, itself an industrialized interpretation of tradition Japan. “I Recall The Time When My Feet Lifted Off The Ground, Ever So Slightly—Kôrin—Chrysanthemum,” depicts flowers as classical Japanese engravings, over creates a paint-splattered background equal parts samurai flick and woodblock print. Caricature and mass-produced posters are folded into one shiny whole.

It’s the repetition and the interest in merging business and art along the lines of mass production—that so echo Warhol. Warhol would have loved the Murakami for Louis Vuitton—even if they were limited edition. But with contemporary Japan as his context, Murakami demonstrates the rise of mass customization over mass production, and the reincarnation of repetition as a type of uniqueness in art.

“Takashi Murakami Paints Self-Portraits” is on view through October 16. Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin is located at 76 Rue de Turenne and 10 Impasse Saint Claude, 75003 Paris.