Few artists have created a career as colorful as that of Takashi Murakami. The Tokyo-based artist’s fluorescent-themed world of wonder is inspired by Otaku culture, Japan’s vibrant anime scene that has informed his thirty-year career. His Kaikai Kiki Co. studio-cum-factory produces everything from paintings and stuffed animals to six-foot-tall cartoon sculptures, such as the famously perverse Mickey Mouse, or his signature grinning flowers. Murakami flattens the hierarchical distinctions between high and low art, selling his wares at both gift shops and Sotheby’s auctions, and being among the pioneers of the fashion-art collaboration with his work for Louis Vuitton. In person, the artist can evoke the whimsical world he has created—Murakami is a character, exceedingly smiley and with a taste for bold, self-made clothes featuring creatures from his world. The artist is currently in Russia to attend the opening of his first major Russian retrospective, at Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art tomorrow. Here, we have some truly pressing questions—like his favorite Russian dish, and his favorite social media follows—to ask Murakami for his culture diet.
What was your first impression of Russia?
The food is very close to Japanese food, actually. Also, the feeling is very warm. Which is completely different from any stereotypes or propaganda you hear, that Russian people are scary.
What is your favorite Russian meal?
What is the first thing you read in the morning?
Facebook. I love looking at my timeline. Also, I check LINE, a messaging and social media app we use in Asia.
Do you use any other social media?
I use Instagram a lot.
Do you use it to find new artists?
I mostly use it to find art that I want to buy, mostly from the U.S. I check in on what’s going on in the art world through Instagram, and I direct-message artists, asking them to send me details about the pieces I want to buy.
Aren’t people rather surprised when you DM them?
No, they’re very cool, they give me the information, saying, “Oh, this work is sold out,” etc.
What are your favorite accounts to follow?
Justin Bieber and my favorite chef.
What are a few books on your bedside table?
Books about the history of Japanese ceramics. I have a big collection of ceramics.
What else do you collect?
Contemporary art, and historical Japanese paintings.
Who is your favorite artist to collect?
I love 80's old school artists. I really like Holt Quentel. She made this great target work that was important for me as a student. I check secondary markets a lot, so I bought several pieces of hers. I’m very proud of those pieces.
What is the most recent piece of art that you bought?
I bought a huge silver sculpture at Petzel Gallery.
What are you currently watching?
I watch old school movies on Netflix. Anything with Tom Cruise, and I love The Godfather. I also really like 80's films from Japan. Old things, or "antique things" as I like to call them.
Why do you think you’re so interested in the 80's?
When I see a TV program, I am usually eating lunch and dinner. I don’t want to focus on what I’m watching. I already know the story, so I can relax. I like to re-watch movies.
What is your favorite movie to re-watch?
Any Japanese animation film. They’ve really informed my work.
Do you prefer New York or Japan?
Japan because of the food and water. New York water is way too hard for me.
Do you still watch a lot of Manga films and read comics?
Yes, but not for the last 10 years. Manga is pretty difficult now, the grammar has completely changed. It’s really abstract right now. I don’t know why, but now Manga is of a completely different generation, it’s so complicated. So I used to buy old manga films and comics.
What is the last movie you saw in theatres?
If you could own any piece of art in the world, what would it be?
The huge Jeff Koons balloon dog. In the real world I cannot buy it because it’s so expensive, but I love this piece. Also, if I could make some space in my apartment, then yes I’d love to buy it.
Why that work?
Technically, the sculpture is incredible—you cannot see the bolts, they’re hiding. That is a complete miracle technique. Whoever organized this is a genius.
What piece has been the hardest to make?
I’ve been in the middle of a complex project for 13 years. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it looks like my character Mr. DOB. It’s been exhibited in progress in 2014, but we’re still making it. When I see it in a gallery I don’t like it, so I keep changing the design.
What’s your favorite Manga character?
Doraemon; it’s a national cartoon.
Who was your favorite artist growing up?
Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away is his most famous film. He definitely inspired me in my life and work.
What was the last museum exhibition you saw and loved?
A historical ceramic show in Tokyo.
You really seem to love ceramics. Would you ever want to make them?
How do you get your news?
Facebook—that’s it. No newspapers.
Favorite book of all time?
This history book I have about a ceramicist.
What do you do to relax?
I watch animation. I’m a geek! I love Gandam, it’s an animation series.
What is the last thing you do before bed?
I check my email. New York and Japan time is completely opposite, I’m sleeping at 1 a.m., and in New York my studio is active.
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