Astrup Fearnley Museet / Oslo
Museum of Contemporary Art / Chicago
 
Takashi
Murakami
 
Text
Martin Bethenod
Director of<br>Palazzo Grassi – Punta della Dogana
 
After Venice in 2009 and Monaco in 2014, the polyptych <i>727-272 (The Emergence of God at the Reversal of Fate)</i> by Takashi Murakami (born in 1962 in Tokyo) is on view in its entirety for the third time, from February to May 2017, at the Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo.

<span class="alinea"></span>Considered one of Takashi Murakami’s major masterpieces, the polyptych <i>727-272 (The Emergence of God at the Reversal of Fate)</i> is a site-specific work created in 2009 for the distinguished central salon on the second floor of Palazzo Grassi. Remarkable not only for its large size (16 panels each 300 x 150 cm, for a total length of 24 meters), but also for its profusion materials (acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, mounted on panels), its production required (three years of incredible studio work by a team taking care of the computer—assisted drawing, the preparation and execution of the silkscreen elements, and detailed hands—on finishing). This work, bathed in the light of the Grand Canal, is all the more striking for the extraordinary dialogue it sets up with Venice’s architectural and historical context. <i>727-272</i> is deeply marked by indepted to the history of Japanese and Chinese art. Among the directly identifiable references—openly acknowledged by Murakami—are the mythical Chinese emperor Shennong, shown, as in Chinese tradition, with a blade of grass in his mouth to symbolize his association with the invention of agriculture and the pharmacopoeia; a figure of a big cat crouched on an arch made of skulls, inspired by the <i>Stone Bridge at Mount Tiantai</i> by Sakaki Hyakusen (1697-1752); a tornado that conjures up <i>Transcendent Attacking a Whirlwind</i> by Soga Shohaku (1730-1781); and a gigantic wave reminiscent of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) or Kano Sansetsu (1590-1651). These artists loom so large in Takashi Murakami’s pantheon that he personally published an English-language edition, forty years after its first appearance in Japan, of Nobuo Tsuji’s books about them.<sup>1</sup> In his preface Murakami openly acknowledges his kinship with these artists, all of whom “possessed a remarkable eccentricity that surely placed them at the sharpest point of the cutting edge of their times.” In the wake of <i>727-272</i>, history and art history have played an increasingly central part in Murakami’s oeuvre. In 2012 came the gigantic ensemble <i>500 Arhats</i>, his reaction to the disaster that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, and a work that echoes the cycle executed by Kano Kazunobu (1816-1863) after the earthquake of 1855. To cite curator and critic Massimiliano Gioni<sup>2</sup>, “Murakami’s most recent paintings are not simply shiny, metallic and new, they resonate instead with references to ancient legends and myths. Murakami has become a history painter.” <br><br> 1 — Nobuo Tsuji, <i>Lineage of Eccentrics: Matabei to Kuniyoshi</i>, (Tokyo: Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., 2012).<br> 2 — Massimiliano Gioni, <i>Murakami Ego</i> (Milan: Skira Rizzoli, 2012). <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span><i>Published in the catalogue of the exhibition “Art Lovers. Stories of Art in the Pinault Collection” presented in 2014 at the Monaco Grimaldi Forum (Paris: Éditions Lienart, 2014).</i>



<span class="alinea"></span>The sculptures <i>Hiropon</i> (1997)—its name borrowed from an amphetamine that was popular in Japan following the Second World War—and <i>My Lonesome Cowboy</i> (1998), inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1968 film by the same title, each present humanoid nudes, teenagers with infantile facial expressions. Both figures play with astronomical secretions produced by their enormous breasts and penis: the Lonesome Cowboy’s semen swirls above his head like a lasso, while Hiropon’s breast milk circles her body like a jump rope. These two superheroes, grotesques allegories of fertility, embody Murakami’s ironic exploration of otaku sexuality—a sexuality of solitude and frustration.
 
Exhibition view,<br> « Agony and Ecstasy »<br> (Song Eun Art Space, Séoul, 2011)<br> —<br> Takashi MURAKAMI<br> <i>My Lonesome Cowboy</i>, 1998<br> FRP resin, fiberglass, steel tubing, steel plate and oil and acrylic paint — 228 × 145 × 109 cm
Takashi MURAKAMI<br> <i>Hiropon</i>, 1997<br> Acrylic, fiberglass and iron — 180 × 104 × 122 cm
Takashi MURAKAMI<br> <i>727-272 (The Emergence of God at the Reversal of Fate)</i>, 2006-2009<br> Acrylic and gold leaf on canvas — 16 panels — 300 × 150 × 5 cm (each panel)
 

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