Takashi Murakami: Pop Life

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To coincide with a series of comprehensive Takashi Murakami exhibitions–beginning in Los Angeles last month and traveling through Brooklyn, Frankfurt, and Bilbao–Paul Schimmel, the Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, compiled Murakami (Rizzoli/MOCA, $65), a striking, oversized coffee-table tome that tells the visual story of the renowned Japanese pop artist.

The book, which mirrors the exhibition’s display of sculpture, painting, and “consumer objects,” adds notes from Schimmel and his peers, and celebrates an artist who’s found worldwide acclaim for his fusion of traditional Japanese painting with otaku culture and street-art elements. It also considers Murakami’s keen business sense–he cites Bill Gates as an influence and built a company, Kaikai Kiki, to manufacture and market his designs–and his high-profile collaborations, most notably the ubiquitous Monogram Multicolore line of Louis Vuitton handbags. That famous pattern, a Technicolor explosion that revitalized the once-stiff French luxury brand, made Murakami a household name in the West and is the best example of his unique art-through-commerce approach, which has made him a creative and corporate entity.

Mainly though, Murakami examines Murakami the artist, a direct descendant of Warhol and Haring, with their rare ability to seamlessly combine high and low art–introducing westerners (Murakami even designed Kanye West’s Graduation album cover) to vivid, anime fantasies.