Takashi Murakami is one of the most praised Asian artists on the contemporary art scene and in 2008, he was the only visual artist to be named one of the 100 most influential people by the Time magazine. He is the man behind the Superflat style, the artist who has been bringing together traditional art and pop culture, commercial products, anime and otaku content in an incredible fusion of techniques and colorful imagery. When once asked about his style, Takashi Murakami stated that in Japan the line between commercialism and art is less defined, and that it is the Western hierarchy of art that makes Westerners hostile towards the blend of art and commerce. However, if we look at auction reports and art market trends, it appears that most of the collectors interested in Murakami’s work come not from Asia and Japan, but North America and Europe. Perhaps Murakami was wrong and there is an audience that can respect this artistic fusion outside of his homeland. To see how popular Murakami’s pieces are and which turned out to be the priciest we have made a selection of his most expensive artworks sold at auctions worldwide.
And then, and then and then and then and then, 1996
Murakami’s DOB paintings are possibly the most popular Murakami pieces. Their value has been growing steadily on the art market in the last ten years and the trend seems to be ongoing. Murakami introduced his Mr. DOB back in 1993, and this hybrid cartoon-like character, which brings together Western and Japanese animation elements, became one of the most recognizable Murakami’s creations. The piece And then, and then and then and then and then, featuring DOB in two colors, was sold at Phillips New York in 2010, fetching a hammer price of $2,000,000. If you think this is expensive, have in mind that this is the tenth priciest artwork, and there are nine more to go.
For details on the piece click here!
The World of Sphere, 2003
The painting The World of Sphere, created in 2003 comes after Murakami’s more than successful collaboration with the fashion brand Louis Vuitton. In 2002, Murakami did a series of designs for the company and the commercial success of the collaboration inspired the artist to re-appropriate the same patterns and LV multi-colored monogram. Along with whimsical characters and colorful background the pieces is instantly recognizable. The World of Sphere sold for $2,060,000 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2013 for the exact low estimate.
Find details on The World of Sphere right here!
Vapor Trail, 2004
Psychedelic, multicolored flowers are a recurring motif in Murakami’s work. Bright and joyful flora is sometimes juxtaposed to the skull imagery, creating a dichotomy the artist especially likes to examine. In Vapor Trail painting, created in 2004 there is no room for disturbing imagery and the artwork evokes a cheerful atmosphere. The emblematic, candy-colored flowers gained an iconic status in Murakami’s work over the years and they are also appreciated by the collectors. The painting Vapor Trail was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2007, for the surprising $2,100,000, 250% above the high estimate.
Check out the artwork page and read more about this piece!
Made in the edition of three, with variations on each piece, sculpture titled Panda was another of Murakami’s collaborations with Louis Vuitton. Fiberglass Panda sculpture features patterns Murakami designed for the LV campaign and it is standing on the antique Louis Vuitton trunk. The piece was auctioned twice, first at Phillips New York in 2005, where it sold below the low estimate for $320,000 and again at Philips London in 2008 surpassing the high estimate and achieving a significant hammer price of $2,380,000.
Check out the trend line for Panda and additional info on the piece here!
DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB), 1999
Made in 1999, DOB in the Strange Forest is a rather interesting piece. The sculpture is comprised of all signature elements, featuring Mr. DOB in the main role, surrounded by hallucinogenic mushrooms with iconic jellyfish eyes. Murakami said that the main inspiration source for this piece was the Disney film Alice in Wonderland, and if we look closely we can see the resemblances. Perhaps collectors weren’t particularly fond of Disney, as this artwork didn’t manage to achieve any of the estimates. The piece was sold for $2,400,000 at Christie’s New York in 2011.
Check out the estimated prices and details on the artwork here!
Kaikai Kiki, 2005
In 2000, Takashi Murakami invented two new characters Kaikai and Kiki. Those who follow the work of the artist probably know that his company it entitled the same, and the name refers to the kaikaikiki term originating from the 16th century, used to describe the art of the painter Eitoku Kanô as being both “powerful and sensitive”. The same can be said for Murakami’s art and for these two whimsical characters. Kaikai Kiki was offered by Christie’s London in 2010, achieving a hammer price of $2,700,000. The piece performed particularly well, considering the high estimate was $952,000.
Read more about Kaikai Kiki piece here!
DOB in the Strange Forest (Red DOB), 1999
The sculpture DOB in the Strange Forest saw its other version in 1999. We talked about blue DOB earlier, but the artist made this sculptural scene with red DOB also. The design of the mushrooms is slightly different than in the previous piece, but the motifs and the inspiration stay the same. This wonderful and strange psychedelic forest was offered for sale by Christie’s New York in 2008 and just like the version we talked about earlier didn’t manage to reach even the low estimate. Nonetheless, the piece was sold for a significant sum of $3,000,000.
Read more about the artwork auction performance here!
The Castle of Tin Tin, 2003
The Castle of Tin Tin is one of Murakami’s most praised DOB paintings. It is also a painting that best illustrates the transformation of his DOB character from a lovable and cute creation into a monstrosity with sharp teeth and menacing smile. In this painting DOB shows the darker side of the popular culture, a phenomenon Takashi Murakami deconstructs continually. Back in 2012, The Castle of Tin Tin set the record for the artist’s paintings achieving a hammer price of $3,700,000 at Sotheby’s New York.
Check out the details on the artwork here!
Miss Ko2, 1997
Takashi Murakami’s fascination with the otaku subculture is best seen in his manga and anime inspired sculptures. Along with DOB, Miss Ko2 is one of Murakami’s most memorable characters. The slender and attractive waitress, dreaming of becoming a rock star, embodies the ideals of bodily beauty and sexuality associated with otaku. A life-size figure of Miss Ko2 alludes to the eroticization of female characters in manga and anime series and it is also the first character to appear in three-dimensional form in Murakami’s oeuvre. Miss Ko2 was sold at Phillips New York in 2010 for the exact high estimate of $6,000,000.
My Lonesome Cowboy, 1998
And we came to the last artwork on the list. The sculpture My Lonesome Cowboy, created in 1998, marks the “body fluid” period in the artist’s work. It is also one of his most talked about pieces. The naked anime character with spiky blond hair and a spiral trail of seamen that circles around him gained much attention in the year of its creation and still continues to intrigue the audience. The sculpture of a young boy stands as a counterpart for Murakami’s other famous piece – Hiropon which was made four years later. The life-size sculpture of the boy masturbating came to be the most expensive piece by Murakami to be sold at auction to date. The Lonesome Cowboy sold for $13,500,000 in 2008 at Sotheby’s New York auction, way above the estimated price.
See additional data for the piece here!