Museum Review: Takashi Murakami at the MFA Boston

Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami has brought a splash of color and a lot of attention to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston recently with the exhibit Lineage of Eccentrics, A Collaboration with Nobuo Tsuji. Professor Nobuo Tsuji assumed the role of mentor and teacher to Murakami in 2009, an act that would allow the artist to engage with historical Japanese art and expand his knowledge in the traditional art forms. The exhibit has taken Murakami’s explosive, vibrant artworks and paired them with pieces from the museum’s extensive collection of Japanese art, creating a conversation between past and present. The near sensory overload is on par with the New York Times description of the artist, “Takashi Murakami rocketed to international fame in the art world for his Pop Japanese anime-inspired characters and motifs that proliferate playfully and menacingly across paintings, sculptures and a line of commercial products.” With fifty of Murakami’s works on display paired with a matching number of carefully curated Japanese works, the museum visitors undergo a unique viewing experience.

Left: Takashi Murakami,  And then, and then and then and then and then / Green Truth, 2006   Right: Takashi Murakami,  And then, and then and then and then and then / Original Blue, 2006

Left: Takashi Murakami, And then, and then and then and then and then / Green Truth, 2006
Right: Takashi Murakami, And then, and then and then and then and then / Original Blue, 2006

Walking into the gallery, visitors are greeted by Transcendent Attacking a Whirlwind, a colossal new work by Murakami illustrating an oversized sea serpent surrounded by curling waves and a background of tessellating pattern. Murakami’s new work was inspired by the six-panel folding screen of the same title, created by Soga Shohaku in 1764 which is now in MFA’s Collection. These pieces act as a perfect introduction to the marriage that Senior Curator of Japanese Art, Anne Nishimura Morse, and Japanese Art Historian, Nobuo Tsuji, have cultivated between pop-art and traditional Japanese artwork. The contrast between Murakami’s contemporary artworks against the beautiful scrolls and images of centuries past simultaneously charm the viewer and display the lasting effect that traditional Japanese culture has had on the present.

The exhibition is organized into six thematic sections, beginning with the exploration of Murakami’s coined term of “Superflat”. Murakami’s Superflat Manifesto, 2000, articulates his artistic approach in which he drastically compresses the space between three dimensional objects and metaphorically flattens distinctions between “high art” and “low art”. The other five galleries are organized based on Tsuji’s principles of Japanese art history: animation, kazari (ornamentation), asobi (playfulness), religiosity and eccentricity.

Detail of: Takashi Murakami,  Dragon in Clouds — Red Mutation,  2010

Detail of: Takashi Murakami, Dragon in Clouds — Red Mutation, 2010

One of the most memorable pieces in the show is Dragon in Clouds—Red Mutation, a twelve foot by fifty-nine foot painting that Murakami created in just twenty-four hours. The gigantic painting came to be in 2010, after Tsuji challenge Murakami to paint his own work without the help of any of his studio assistants. After putting himself on a twenty-four hour time limit, and pulling inspiration from Soga Shohaku’s 1763 thirty five foot long Dragon and Clouds, Murakami worked for an entire day. The final product was the massive and powerful acrylic on canvas artwork. 

With the show being so bright and colorful, it easily lends itself to social sharing, making it a popular backdrop to countless Instagram photos. In the room housing Kawaii – vacances (Summer Vacation in the Kingdom of the Golden), visitors can be found going as far as laying on the ground to capture the psychedelic effect the happy flowers and metallic finish. With a guiding phrase on the wall reading: “If you don't share a photo from this exhibition, did you really visit? Share your #mfaMurakami photos with @mfaBoston.” A controversial statement that has received varied feedback, raising the topic of how institutions should be using social media to handle self-promotion through art. The phrase certainly questions the intentions of the exhibition; whether to grab the attention of snap-happy social sharers or start a cultural conversation about Japanese art past and present – and which is more important to the museum.

Overall, it is a strong exhibition and we recommend seeing in person. Be sure to bring a friend so you have someone to take your Instagram photo…

Detail of: Takashi Murakami,  Kawaii-Vacances (Summer Vacation in the Kingdom of the Golden) ,  2008.

Detail of: Takashi Murakami, Kawaii-Vacances (Summer Vacation in the Kingdom of the Golden),  2008.

See It Now: Megacities Asia

Megacity: A very large city with a population of over 10 million people

Urban setting of this scale were unimaginable fifty years ago, but are becoming increasingly common, especially in the continent of Asia. These towering, sprawling metropolises are centers of the social, political, and environmental concerns of the eleven artists featured in The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s Megacities Asia exhibit.

Comprised primarily of installations and sculpture constructed from found objects in these megacities, the pieces convey the textures, materials, and overall feeling of the city each artist calls their home. Rather than being contained to one room, portions of Megacities can be found all over the museum and even beyond its walls. The most notable of these outside exhibitions is Fruit Tree, Choi Jeong Hwa’s magnificent twenty-three feet tall inflated bouquet of fruit, on view outside Quincy Market in Boston.

Upon descending into the main exhibition hall of Megacities Asia, the first thing we see is a geographical map showing the origins of each artist. The exhibition is constantly putting the work in context, accessible to visitors who may not be familiar with the cities addressed by the artists.

Untitled  (2016) Aditi Joshi; Mumbai, India Fused plastic bags, acrylic paint, LED lighting, and wooden armature Image Courtesy of MFA Boston

Untitled (2016)
Aditi Joshi; Mumbai, India
Fused plastic bags, acrylic paint, LED lighting, and wooden armature
Image Courtesy of MFA Boston

Some notable works includes a large, colorful sculpture by Aaditi Joshi, stretching across a corner of the exhibit, textured like a deep-sea coral reef. Upon closer examination, we see that the entire sculpture is made of plastic bags collected from the streets of Mumbai, India, Joshi’s native megacity. The piece addresses the environmental threat of overuse and improper disposal of these plastic bags in Mumbai, looming over the viewer like a twisting, bristling beast.

Super-Natural  (2011-2016) Han Seok Hyun

Super-Natural (2011-2016)
Han Seok Hyun

Hu Xiangcheng’s corner of the exhibit, Doors Away from Home (2016), has multiple little rooms, divided and wallpapered with salvaged Ming and Qing-era doors from homes destroyed in Shanghai’s modernization. The doors themselves are pieces of history, and tacked on are photographs of past residents, stickers, wrappers, and children’s hair ornaments—remnants of their legacy. There are mirrors fitted into each window pane; moving through the exhibit, we see ourselves reflected in the work. Hu asks the question that often accompanies rapid cultural change: are we losing something?

Han Seok Hyun’s all-green sprawling installation, Super-Natural (2011-2016) is like a miniature city in itself. It is fun to parse through, identifying the mass-produced consumer products from Seoul that make up the piece. The work addresses the environmental issues arising as nature is replaced my man-made and calls out the mirage of “green” products—which are often falsely presumed to be environmentally friendly just because of their color.

These works and more are on view in The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, through July 17, 2016. Be sure to catch it before its gone!


Wednesday, May 18: Puloma Ghosh

5 Events to Check out at ArtWeek Boston 2016

ArtWeek Boston is always a great time to explore different types of art around the city, and it’s coming up again at the end of this month! It’s a reminder that there’s way more to Boston art than what you would traditionally expect. Here are five unique events that we think you should check out during ArtWeek this year:

1. Ikebana at the MFA Boston

Every year the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a three-day celebration called Art in Bloom, where designers from across New England create floral arrangements inspired by art at the MFA. During this ArtWeek Ikebana event, they will showcase floral designs by Ikebana masters. They feature designers from the three major Ikebana schools, Ikenobo, Sogetsu, and Ohara. Stop by for their demonstration to get the first tastes of summer.

Image Courtesy of MFA Boston

Image Courtesy of MFA Boston

2. Art + Business: Making to Lead

The Life is Good headquarters in Fort Point will join forces with limeSHIFT to host a panel, tour, and art activity for professionals looking to incorporate art into their business environment. In their discussion, they will talk about how art can build community, improve a business space, and empower employees within a company. Find out the ways art and business can can work harmoniously to create a unique culture.

Image Courtesy of ArtWeek Boston

Image Courtesy of ArtWeek Boston

3. Idea Hub: 3D Printing & Design

The MIT Museum’s creative technology space, Idea Hub, will be host to a demo and workshop on 3D printing and design, an essential part of the Maker movement. This event open to ages 12 and up, for those of you exploring ArtWeek Boston with families. You’ll be able to learn how to design your own 3D sculpture using TinkerCad and explore how 3D printers can make ideas into reality

Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor

4. Sculptural Weaving Talk + Demo at Artisan’s Asylum

Artisan’s Asylum is a Somerville hub for Boston innovation. It is a community workspace for teaching, learning, and practicing fabrication. This is a great opportunity for people who are new to fabric arts and want to learn more about it. Member and sculptural weaver, Jeanne Flanagan, will be talking about her work and presenting a demonstration. This event is also part of Artisan’s Asylum’s Fiber Arts Night, so attendees are encouraged to bring their own projects to share and discuss!

Image Courtesy of ArtWeek Boston

Image Courtesy of ArtWeek Boston

5. Design & Decor with Drinks & More

Learn the art of interior design using recycled antiques and salvaged artifacts to create one-of-a-kind looks to suit any space. Complimentary wine, beer, and snacks will be provided for a laid-back lecture with two industry experts Brendan Haley and Bill Raymer, and a tour of Restoration Resources, a 7000 sq ft antique salvage showroom to get you started. 

Image Courtesy of ArtWeek Boston

Image Courtesy of ArtWeek Boston

And don't forget to swing by the SoWa Arts District during ArtWeek Boston as well!


Wednesdsay, April 13, 2016: Puloma Ghosh