Contemporary Art into the Metaverse: Takashi Murakami Poppy’s Journey

Photos by Timothy Clary

Takashi Murakami is known for his blending of pop art and Asian fine art, but for his latest exhibition in New York, he’s moving to the metaverse.

At the exhibition “An Arrow Through History” that opened this week at the Gagosian Gallery in Manhattan, Murakami builds bridges from traditional fine art to Japanese pop art to bustling NFTs—digital icons that are original artworks.

Murakami told AFP he was concerned that younger generations were obsessed with screens and “don’t understand contemporary art history”.

“They can enjoy quite a few things, but with the addition of augmented reality, maybe young people will open their eyes more and then step into the contemporary art scene,” said the 60-year-old Japanese artist.

Recently, athletes, artists, celebrities and tech stars have been promoting NFTs, which use the same blockchain technology as cryptocurrencies.

“When I work on creative production, I make no distinction between digital and analog,” Murakami said in a statement from Gagosian.

“I always work in the context of contemporary art, and that context is about whether I can participate in events that succeed in triggering a knowledge revolution.”

Artist Takashi Murakami poses in front of Murakami.Flower Pink & White, 2000 during a May 11, 2022 press preview of “An Arrow through History” at Gagosian Galleries in New York. This will be Murakami’s first Gagosian gallery in New York since 2014 and marks his return to 980 Madison Avenue, where he held his inaugural exhibition with the gallery in 2007. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP)/

– ‘Into the metaverse’ –

In one piece, Murakami painted thick panels and wooden structures with blue and white fish patterns, inspired by Chinese ceramic vases dating from the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368).

Using Snapchat and an augmented reality filter, visitors can immerse themselves in the gallery room via their phones, standing among digital photos of fish swimming among photorealistic artwork.

Artist Takashi Murakami poses in front of “Grass Carp, 2022” during a press preview of “An Arrow Through History” at Gagosian Galleries of New York City on May 11, 2022. This will be Murakami’s first Gagosian exhibition in New York since 2014 and marks his return to the 980 Madison Avenue, where he held his inaugural exhibition with the gallery in 2007. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP)/

“Japanese culture originally came from the Eurasian continent, and my concept was to transcend from there into the metaverse, shooting art history with one arrow,” Murakami said in the statement.

The metaverse is an immersive virtual reality that can be accessed using virtual or augmented reality glasses and is a concept that has seen a boost in recent years.

“I was watching reality in my house, so that was a very historic moment,” Murakami, who is stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, told AFP.

“For us, it was so stressful every day. We couldn’t go out” – but his kids could enjoy virtual reality, he said.

“That means I have to change my mind, to fit in with the next generation of my children,” he said. “This is my first answer – the show.”

Murakami is also set to open a special exhibition at the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, titled “Takashi Murakami: Stepping on the Tail of the Rainbow,” which will include immersive environments and run from May 21 through September 25.

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