Linda Yablonsky got trapped in Tokyo when Takashi Murakami’s Geisai #15 was cancelled due to the tsunami. Putting her time to good use, she spent some time with Murakami and discovered that along with the large staff of painters, his work is all about the artists:
In one of the two exhibition spaces, works from his private collection by Mark Grotjahn, Yoshitomo Nara, and Grayson Perry were on show with three new nudes-on-silver by Murakami—his Three Graces, as it were—that will head to London at the end of May for a show at Gagosian. (Murakami has caught the collecting bug pretty badly, especially for Nara.) […] Based on paintings by the nineteenth-century artist Kuroda Seiki, one of the first Japanese to incorporate Western imagery in his work, the new Murakami works represent something of a departure from his Mr. Pointys, mushroom-cloud skulls, and flowering smiley faces. There were also a couple of modest, impressionistic paintings of a big-eyed young girl by OB, a shy nineteen-year-old from Kyoto who was in the gallery to meet us. She is one of fifteen young artists currently resident in a mentoring program that Murakami, an industry unto himself, has established in his suburban factory.
On a tatami-matted platform in the other room, three of his flowerball sculptures, in three different sizes, were paired with three figures of cute adolescent girls by Chiho Aoshima, one of the seven artists whose careers the Kaikai Kiki organization manages. […] I asked about a sixteen-foot-tall Mr. Pointy canvas taking shape in the studio. Barnett Newman’s “zips” inspired it, he said, naming Donald Judd, Julian Opie, and Brice Marden’s monochromes as other sources, and On Kawara, Tatsuo Miyajima, and Yasumasa Morimura as the artists who paved the way for Murakami to be “super famous.”
Tokyo Story (ArtForum)