Murakami – “EGO” at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha
Takashi Murakami captivated Qatar with his 2012 solo show "Ego" curated by Massimiliano Gioni.
Murakami – Ego is the first solo exhibition of the Japanese artist in the Middle East. The show featured 60+ pieces from 1997 to the present, and sprawls on more than 2,300 square metres of exhibition space. The Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) organised the show to foster inter-cultural dialogue and celebrate forty years of friendly relations between Japan and Qatar.
When asked why he chose such a provocative title, Murakami replied that he saw the exhibition as a “dialogue with one’s own ego”. This is made obvious from the entrance of the show where a larger-than-life inflatable sculpture of the artist greets visitors in a quasi Buddhist gesture. The collection also captures Murakami’s struggle with the anxieties brought about by the contemporary world: what is the role of the artist in the midst of a pop-lavished, consumerist culture? How can he re-conquer his private fictional space in the face of a sustained information overload? Finally, visitors will experience exciting new modes of display such as a circus tent hosting an indoor cinema, and sculptural pedestals with digital animation inspired by the Manga and Kawaii culture – Murakami’s recurring themes.
Takashi Murakami obtained a PhD in Nihonga painting from the Tokyo University of the Arts. Although he quickly abandoned traditional painting to explore contemporary techniques and themes, the artist still draws inspiration from Buddhism, Japanese traditions and mythological animals. His creatures are often represented with their mouth and eyes open, symbolising the cultural and political awakening Murakami is eager to see happening in his country. Obsessed with America’s influence on Japan, the artist seeks to challenge the slow moving Japanese art scene and instil an entrepreneurial spirit into Japanese art.
QMA describes the show as “radical” and provocative”, but a few commentators have pointed out that Murakami’s sexually explicit pieces such as My Lonesome Cowboy are missing from the catalogue. Gioni insists that he had to show respect for the local culture – which is understandable. But can the show really claim to offer “a look into the artist’s mind” and a “distinct perspective on contemporary culture” when such insightful pieces have been purposely left out? The truth is that Murakami stirred up much more controversy in the past. In 2007, the Chief Curator of theMuseum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) Paul Schimmel invited Marc Jacobs to open a Louis Vuitton store within the exhibition ©MURAKAMI. The store not only showcased but also sold Murakami’s reinterpretations of the classic monogram, raising questions about the commercialisation of art. More recently, curator Laurent Le Bon hosted a Murakami retrospective at the Château de Versailles. This produced similar reactions to the Jeff Koons retrospective, shaking the French art establishment and reopening the debate on the problematic dimensions surrounding intercultural dialogue – or « dialogue des cultures ».
Murakami – Egoran from 09/02/12 to 24/06/12 in the Al-Riwaq exhibition hall, located on the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art on Doha’s Corniche.
by Mélissa Leclézio