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Acupuncture

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Critical Review

The Acupuncture collection is a series of lithograph prints by Takashi Murakami, the renowned Japanese artist who is known for straddling the fine art and commercial market by producing paintings and sculptures, as well as popular fashion and merchandise. The prints in this collection are all signed and come in an edition size of 300.

Murakami’s style is generally described using the term ‘superflat’. This term was coined by the artist himself and in 2000 he published the superflat theory in the catalogue for a group exhibition that he curated for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. According to Murakami’s theory, there is a legacy of flat, two-dimensional imagery from Japanese art history in manga and anime. This style contrasts with the way Western art attempts to emphasise texture and surface by experimenting with planes of colour and depth. As well as being used to describe the aesthetics of artworks, the term is also used by Murakami to address the nature of post-war Japanese culture and society. Murakami notes how differences in social classes and popular taste have flattened, diminishing the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. A feature of the superflat style which is often seen in Murakami’s work is taking ideas or symbols of ‘low’ culture and presenting them using fine art techniques or exhibiting them in settings associated with ‘high’ culture, which has the effect of flattening together what is considered ‘high’ and ‘low’ in the same work.

Murakami’s fascination with ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, his desire to bring the two together in his artworks, as well as his use of the screen printing technique and love for consumer culture, means the artist is often compared to Andy Warhol, the pioneer of the Pop Art movement. Murakami has gained the title of ‘Japan’s Andy Warhol’, and he will leave a long-lasting impact on the art world, as his Pop Art predecessor did before him.

Why is the Acupuncture series important?

The Acupuncture collection is characterised by Murakami’s use of colourful squares which the artist arranges methodically in a grid. Murakami’s style is deeply influenced by ‘otaku’ culture, a Japanese term used to denote a young person who is obsessed with computers and popular culture. The squares look like pixels, and this collection shares aesthetic qualities with the digital form of art, Pixel art.

Murakami prides himself on being able to combine the otaku subculture with fine art. The artist originally studied ‘nihonga’, traditional Japanese painting, at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music. Murakami excelled at studying this painting style, which incorporates traditional Japanese artistic conventions, techniques and subjects. After his BA, Murakami went on to obtain an MFA (1988) and PhD (1993).  The artist gradually became disillusioned with the insular and highly political world of fine art, which led him to explore more contemporary artistic styles, as evidenced in this collection. It is this new and exciting artistic style that made Murakami into a global icon who was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”.

The Acupuncture collection captures many of the trademark elements of Murakami’s artistic style. Acupuncture – Opening Wide Squeezing Tight and Acupuncture – Terre Verte showcase Murakami’s love of colour and the incorporation of flat surfaces into his artworks. There is no effort to produce a three-dimensional effect in these prints, and Murakami avoids depth and texture, privileging the two-dimensional. Murakami is also celebrated for producing a range of recurring motifs such as smiling flowers, iconic characters, mushrooms and skulls. In Acupuncture/Flowers – Checkers, the artist fuses the checkered grid that characterises the series with an array of endearing colourful flowers, all of which are given smiling faces, which produces an almost psychedelic effect.

How do I buy an Acupuncture print?

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