One of the most popular contemporary artists alive, Takashi Murakami has been hailed as Japan’s modern incarnation of Andy Warhol. Thanks to his psychedelic motifs, super-saturated color palette, and infatuation with all things “otaku,” Murakami has garnered an international cult following and is a favorite among celebrities like Justin Bieber and Kanye West—Ye’s third studio album, Graduation, was even designed by Murakami. Soon, visitors will be able get a taste of his trippy, anime-esque world that blends the line between pop culture and fine art at Takashi Murakami: Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, which is set to debut at the Broad in Los Angeles on May 21 and will run until September 25.
Stepping on the Tale of a Rainbow will be Murakami’s first exhibit dedicated solely to his work at the museum and will comprise 18 pieces—including a few immersive experiences. At the exhibit, you can expect to see some of his most well-known installations like 100 Arhats (2013) and In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow (2014), which are 32-feet wide and 82-feet wide, respectively. General admission to the Broad is free, but there is a special exhibition fee of $18 for this show.
Though his artwork seems almost childlike at times—with his paintings and figurines of smiling flowers and blooming mushrooms—Murakami’s work delves into some truly deep and complex subjects like the reconstruction of postwar Japan, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the effects of globalization, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The common thread that ties his work together? How people respond to times of crisis.
“Artworks in these exhibitions speak to recovery, resistance, and even beauty in the face of deep social and environmental upheaval,” Joanne Heyler, the Broad’s founding director, said in a press release. “By re-visiting some of his most beloved and well-known works . . . the logic of Murakami’s work in Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow [the exhibit] offers an inspiring sense of continuity and history, and beauty during times of trouble.”
Murakami often attributes his unique style of art (which he considers a distinct genre that he’s dubbed “superflat”), to his childhood growing up in Itabashi City, a district of Tokyo. During World War II, the town was supposed to be a target for American bombers carrying nuclear payloads, but there was too much cloud cover to choose a target on the day of the attack. His art walks a fine line between celebrating and critiquing Japanese and Western consumerist cultures and the symbiotic relationship between the two. Murakami will sometimes even paint and sculpt himself into his artwork with his alter ego, Mr. DOB, which is loosely inspired by Mickey Mouse, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Doraemon, a popular robot/cat anime character.
Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow will be shown in conjunction with another exhibit, This Is Not America’s Flag, which explores the power of symbolism, the relationship between modern America and the country’s painful past, and the complexities of contemporary American identity with the works of 20 artists, including names like Chicana photographer Laura Aguilar and Brooklyn-based painter Jeffrey Gibson. The collection of art seeks to both celebrate the flag as a symbol of America and American ideals, as well as its ability to epitomize the injustices and inequalities experienced by people of color and other minority groups within the country. Admission to This Is Not America’s Flag is included with a ticket to Stepping on the Tale of a Rainbow. Together, the two exhibitions offer visitors plenty of fodder to muse on the intricacies of national pride, identity, and history.