While Japan is long known to have an interest in all things American, the long lines yesterday at an exhibit of the work of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami was testament to the continued interest in all things Japanese in the U.S. The current show at the Brooklyn Museum show includes more than ninety works in various media that span the artist’s entire career, installed in more than 18,500 square feet of gallery space.
Born in Tokyo in 1962, Murakami is one of the most influential and acclaimed artists to have emerged from Asia in the late twentieth century, creating a wide-ranging body of work that consciously bridges fine art, design, animation, fashion, and popular culture.
I haven’t at this point found my personal connection to Murakami, it may take an oddity of a consumer appliance to do that. In fact, I haven’t yet spent the time to actually see the exhibit. Instead I headed to the fifth floor, where a number of paintings and decorative arts tell a larger story of the longstanding influence of Japan and other Asian countries on design and culture in the U.S.
There an 1864 quote that would prove prophetic is displayed from James Jackson Jarvis from The Art Idea “We are a composite people. Our knowledge is eclectic… It remains then for us to be as eclectic in our art as in the rest of our civilization.”
It’s not the first time a far-away culture came to influence American art and design. A fascination with Egypt prevailed earlier in the 19th Century, as did the influence of ancient Greece which some may argue has not subsided.
Today’s world is far removed from the time of William Merritt Chase and the Herter Brothers. In an international marketplace few cultures are that far removed. Before mass production the influence of design was unable to fully penetrate the population. Today a far greater segment of the population is within reach of say a “Hello Kitty” toaster than a Herter Brothers cabinet in its day. Murakami seems to have appeal to one who may purchase a $5,000 handbag and a simple mouse pad (gift shop items including a sunflower pillow–brought the response of ‘he certainly is a businessman’ from my friend.)