TAKASHI MURAKAMI: UNDER THE RADIATION FALLS | Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow

Known as “the Warhol of Japan”, Murakami’s madcap, cutesy pop art from the last two decades is presented in the broader context of Japanese culture for the first time, including the post-nuclear apocalypse suggested by the exhibition’s title.

Since the 1990s, Murakami’s work has continually returned to the same visual themes: the silhouette of a skull known as Time Bokan; the cartoon angel-and-devil pair of Kaikai and Kiki; the bright poster-coloured flowers with wide open smiles.  In this way, the exhibition works as a cartoon journey through variations on a theme.

Murakami has truly transformed the whole building, with eye-popping kitsch.  All along the outside windows are wall frieze stickers of his shiny, plastic flowers.  A towering swirl of gleaming golden fire, topped with a Murakami skull, is the sculpture centrepiece that welcomes visitors into the foyer.  Even Garage’s historical Soviet wall mosaic has been invaded by manic, multicoloured bunnies.  Within the exhibition itself, rooms are Murakami-fied from floor to ceiling.

Centuries-old Japanese art on loan from the Pushkin Museum and elsewhere (including, of course, Hokusai’s iconic The Great Wave) shows how Murakami is, in more ways than one, a traditional Japanese artist using traditional techniques.  Elsewhere, chilling colour photos from post-nuclear Japan lends a certain backstory to Murakami’s hallucinogenic mushrooms and mutants.  Murakami has a huge worldwide following, and here in Moscow this exhibition has mass appeal.  A cross-continental smash for Garage.

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