Q&A: Takashi Murakami

NEW YORK Takashi Murakami is a Japanese artist, designer and mentor who is best known for coining the style “Superflat” — an intermingling of traditional Japanese painting with contemporary animation. In addition, he has an extensive line of his own figurines, Louis Vuitton limited edition handbags and mentors a group of artists known as Kaikai Kiki. He will have a retrospective of his work at the Brooklyn Museum, April 5-July 13.

What is your design philosophy?
I don’t know if it’s a philosophy, but the thing that impulsively comes to mind as an artist is to step into areas where people don’t go.

How did you come to invent Superflat?
Between 1994 and 1995, I participated in a fellowship with New York’s PS1 residency program. It was at that time that I hypothesized that the specific timing and compositions found in Japanese animation fit right in line with the layouts inherent in the works of Jakuchu, Sansetsu and other famous “eccentric” Japanese painters. This marked the starting point of my finding connections between fine art and popular culture, and led me to conceive of the “Superflat” series, which culminated in “Little Boy.”

Your Vuitton bags are well-respected. What other companies are you designing products for?
As of now there aren’t any. I’m continuing my collaboration with Kanye West.

How did you come to collaborate with Kanye West on the album cover for Graduation?
Kanye, being a fan of my work, wanted to visit me while he was on a tour of Japan and stopped by to check out my studio.  We hit it off and decided to launch this collaboration.  I knew of Kanye from to his high standing in the hip-hop world, but I was shocked to hear that he knew about me, let alone was a fan of my work.
What do you think of contemporary American design?
I haven’t really thought about American design specifically.

What is the trend happening in Japan right now that will be big in America next?
I don