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First exhibition by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami in a public space in Italy opens in Milan
Takashi Murakami, Red Demon and Blue Demon with 48 Arhats, 2013. Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles © 2014 Takashi Murakami / Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

MILAN.- The Culture Department of the Municipality of Milan and Palazzo Reale present an exhibition of large-format paintings and sculptures by contemporary artist Takashi Murakami in the splendid setting of the Sala delle Cariatidi. This is the first exhibition by this celebrated Japanese artist in a public space in Italy.

After the large touring show ©MURAKAMI and the extensive 2010 retrospective held in the sumptuous halls of the Palace of Versailles, the Milan exhibition is a hitherto unseen event that explores new forms of painting devised by Murakami over the last two years. It presents techniques and styles developed by the artist following Ego, a major exhibition held in 2012 at the Al Riwaq Exhibition Hall in Doha, Qatar. With a selection of recent works, the exhibition is a quintessential offering of Murakami’s ability to conflate historical, contemporary, and futuristic Japanese references with a myriad of styles, methodologies, and forms—trademarks of one of the most celebrated artists of our time. 

Upon entering the exhibition, visitors encounter Oval Buddha Silver (2008), a highly reflective, sterling silver sculpture whose technical virtuosity is both alluring in detail and stately in presence. The exhibition continues with the presentation of three large-scale Arhat paintings. Created in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, these monumental works measure between five and ten meters in length. The word arhat is of Sanskrit origin and translates to “a being who has achieved a state of enlightenment.” The source imagery for the Arhat series is drawn from an ancient tale of Buddhist monks confronting decay and death, where demonic monsters and decrepit monks in traditional robes and paraphernalia wander psychedelic landscapes. There is a powerful link between these paintings and the storied environs of the Sala delle Cariatidi, which was once a ballroom before being severely damaged by air raids during World War II. Notwithstanding, this architectural jewel has been given new life, thanks to restoration efforts that have nonetheless left the scars and wounds of the tragic events of the war in full view.

The exhibition also includes an array of self-portrait paintings, which playfully depict Murakami’s continuous investigation into his own image and ever-shifting perception of his place in the universe. A third series of paintings, made specifically for this exhibition, portray a constellation of cascading skulls, whose distinct colors and shapes belie their morbid subject matter.

Takashi Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, and received his BFA, MFA, and PhD from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. He founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., a large-scale art production and art management company. In 2000, he organized a paradigmatic exhibition of Japanese art titled Superflat, which traced the origins of contemporary Japanese visual pop culture to historical Japanese art. His work has been shown extensively in venues around the world, including the Qatar Museum Authority; Palace of Versailles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Brooklyn Museum; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; Fondation Cartier pour l’art Contemporain, Paris; Serpentine Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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