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Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Lot 14: - Takashi Murakami , b. 1962 DOB Flower acrylic on canvas laid down on board
Description: signed, dated 2000 and variously inscribed on the reverse acrylic on canvas laid down on board
Notes: DOB Flower Fusing both East and West, DOB was born from a simulation of language and cartoon imagery. The phrase "dobozite dobozite oshamanbe" from silly gags found in early 1970s Japanese comic books was first conceived as Murakami's 1993 sign piece and later condensed into the three-letter 'DOB' to formulate his first and soon-to-be trademark Pop character, Mr. DOB. Straddling two sources of inspiration, the Sega mascot Sonic the Hedgehog and Doraemon, the Japanese cat-like robot from the future, DOB emerged as a figure unique to Murakami's name and was to have tremendous impact on his iconography and identity. Fixated on otaku culture - a 'geeky' Japanese sub-culture that revolves around animated movies, comic books and sexually suggestive figure models - Murakami sought to represent this in his art in a Westernized fashion akin to Pop art while maintaining a Japanese aesthetic. Seeking to embrace kawaii, or 'cuteness' in his art, Murakami's invention of DOB has come to be a type of self-portrait, reflecting the persona of its creator. Characters such as Murakami's DOB are dynamic emblems of Pop, and while Warhol used images of Mickey Mouse and Lichtenstein sourced the funny pages, Murakami invented his own. In the stunning rendition of DOB Flower, Mr. DOB appears mischievous, cheerful and utterly adorable as he peeks up above the lower half of the canvas gazing up towards the sky. His broad toothy grin and psychedelic patterned Mickey Mouse ears describe him as a character unlike any other. His persona references the Western world with his close stylistic ties to Disney and in particular, Mickey Mouse, in which he shares the same symbolic ears, however he also remains inherently Eastern with his distinct link to Japanese cartoons and animation and the overall flatness of the composition. He therefore emerges as a unique figure who is ultimately a reflection of the artist - a kind of self-portrait or alter-ego - exhibiting the dichotomy between East and West. Murakami, Japanese by birth but today living and working in America, shares this duality which is consistently reflected in his art, attributing much to the American psychology of Andy Warhol yet remaining true to his Japanese roots. Murakami devised a theory he deemed 'Superflat', whereby he associated the flat picture planes of traditional Japanese paintings to the lack of any distinction between high and low in Japanese culture. Formally, he grouped together traditional artists of the Edo period (1603-1868) together with the creators of animated films believing that they shared important stylistic similarities in the flatness of their work. Murakami toys with the superflat style in the present work by giving DOB the appearance of being flattened out by a rolling pin, his face pressed flush against the picture plane. This painstaking superflat style he employs over his immaculately smooth surface is both a feature of Nihonga painting (the style in which he was initially trained) and mass factory production, the two opposing poles that Murakmi's art successfully reunites. DOB Flower has a uniquely decorative and ornamental feel, displaying the intricate network of budding vines that dangle above Mr. DOB's head. Exquisitely patterning the upper half of the composition, it is as if DOB sits beneath a twig of mistletoe waiting to be kissed. Murakami's flowers are a distinct trademark of their own, and often stand alone in his art such as in his iconic Cosmos of 1998, in which the flower motif is employed across three panels, recalling an ornate Japanese screen. The dangling and curling vines fall gracefully from the top of the canvas, and display on their slender limbs budding flowers in vibrant hues of pink, yellow, red and white. These flowers are immediately personified into little bunches of joy, their smiling faces gazing out at us and bobbing in the air as if in fits of laughter. Seeming to float on the flat brilliant metallic surface, the floral bouquet - similar to the elaborate patterned surfaces devoid of spatial perspective typical of traditional Nihonga painting- is reinterpreted by Murakami into a heavily schematised design emblem. Flowers are a classic motif in traditional Japanese painting, and Murakami drew them for two years as he was preparing for his university entrance exams. Responding to the traditions of Edo painting in its flattened representation of nature in hyper-detail, DOB Flowers is a culmination of two of Murakami's most revolutionary signature motifs. Essentially, DOB has become Murakami's house brand. Much like Disney made Mickey Mouse a household name, and Warhol made him worthy in the domain of fine art, Murakami is rapidly gaining recognition with his own set of smiley-faced icons. DOB has evolved over time in Murakami's work and appeared in various different forms and contexts, as an inflatable balloon, in films, on clothing and as a character in other compositions. With DOB, Murakami does not rest - he is perpetually reinventing his image and through this process exploring the realm of branding, as Mika Yoshitake observes "Murakami's production of DOB comes from an engagement with how an icon emerges as an object of mass consumption and circulates as a distinctive registered trademark to be used, reused, bought, and sold" (cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, ©Murakami, 2007, p. 125). Murakami's extraordinary DOB Flower, with is glimmering sliver backdrop and delicate spiralling flowers is a beautifully unique version of this hugely celebrated icon in his most lavish form. Harmoniously synthesizing the once opposing realms of commercial design and fine art practice, like Warhol, Murakami uses consumer culture and commercial imagery to define the zeitgeist of his digital generation.
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2001
Dimensions: measurements 122 by 122cm. alternate measurements 48 by 48in.
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