Through the span of his 28-year career, Takashi Murakami has risen to the top of Japan’s contemporary art scene. Born in Tokyo in 1962, Murakami spent his childhood days infatuated with manga and animation, hoping to one day become an animator. When he attended the Tokyo University for the Arts, he quickly shifted his focus from animation to Nihonga, the art of traditional Japanese painting. Although he eventually earned a Ph.D. in Nihonga, Murakami started to explore more contemporary art, returning to the manga motifs from his childhood. In the early 1990s, Murakami cemented himself among Japan’s contemporary icons by defining a style known as “Superflat,” which consists of flattened versions of manga and anime characters, as well as other Japanese pop culture symbols. Murakami aimed to break the barrier between “high art” and commercialism, prevalent in the Western art world. In a 2006 interview, Murakami noted, “In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that’s okay—I’m ready with my hard hat.” Through his own exhibitions as well as a multitude of fashion collaborations, Murakami has been able to effectively blur the lines between the two. Below, we explore some of Murakami’s most notable collaborations, charting the evolution of his style, pop cultural significance, and message.

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