There aren't many artists in the world more popular than Takashi Murakami. He started his own new Japanese pop art movement, "superflat", which mixes anime and manga with corporate branding, commercialism and mass production. Names like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring come up a lot when people talk about him. He does everything from keychains to 30-foot tall statutes. The big stuff sells for millions and millions of dollars. His work has been displayed outside Rockefeller Center and in a fifteen-room exhibition at the Palace of Versailles. A couple of years ago Time put him on their list of the 100 Most Influential People.
But his work, ridiculously cute and commercial, can also get kind of twisted. He chose the name "superflat" in part to reflect what he calls the "shallow emptiness of Japanese consumer culture." And he has no problem fucking with the usual inane slickness of corporate art. “I always emphasize that the power of the dark side exists even in cuteness," he told SWINDLE Magazine a few years ago. Some of his characters are grotesque. And his most famous and controversial statues are of disturbingly young anime figures ejaculating and lactating all over the place.
This video is from 2003, when he collaborated with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, designing a new line of multi-coloured, monogrammed bags. They were crazypopular; sales soared. This is the commercial he produced to accompany the launch, a strange, mildly disturbing, psychedelic, Alice in Wonderlandish trip, featuring his "Louis Vuitton panda" character. There's also a sequel from 2009 you can watch on YouTube here and you can visit the video's page on UbuWeb here.
UbuWeb is one of our most favourite sites on the whole of the Internet, host to multimedia files from the history of the avant-garde. It has 100 year-old recordings of Dadaist sound poets. Books written by computers. Surrealistic Luis Vuitton commercials made by legendary Japanese directors. It's crazy. Visit it here. Or see all of our "Best Of UbuWeb" recommendations here.
Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.