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Art Through Time: A Global View

Converging Cultures Art: Miss ko2 (Project ko2)

» Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b. 1962)

Miss ko2 (Project ko2)

Miss ko2 (Project ko2)
Artist / Origin: Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b. 1962)
Region: East Asia
Date: 1997
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Oil, acrylic, fiberglass, and iron
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions: H: 100 in. (254 cm.), W: 46 in. (117 cm.), D: 36 in. (91.5 am.)
Credit: © 1997 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Along with the Mickey Mouse-like Mr. DOB, Miss ko2 is one of Takashi Murakami’s most recognized characters.

The sculpture, the artist’s first, demonstrates both an interest in contemporary Japanese aesthetics and a fascination with Western ideals of beauty. Miss ko2 is a big-breasted, long-legged, blue-eyed blond. The voluptuous waitress is a life-size version of the kinds of figurines collected by otaku, a subculture obsessed with the sci-fi and fantasy worlds of anime (animation), manga (comic books), and video games. The blatant sexuality exuded by the figure is also associated with these forms of popular youth culture in Japan.

Although trained in the traditional Japanese art of nihonga, Murakami takes his inspiration from a wide variety of sources both Eastern and Western. In his installations, paintings, videos, and sculptures, Murakami blurs the line between “high” and “low” art, traditional and popular culture. His works draw on everything from anime and manga to Buddhist forms and iconography to Abstract Expressionism and Pop art. Even his approach to art-making might be described as hybrid. Similar to Andy Warhol’s Factory in some ways, Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., with two locations—the Hiropon Factory outside of Tokyo and a New York studio—is the center of his art production. Murakami’s approach to managing the corporation has been influenced by modern American business models, but at the same time, employs the organizational structure of traditional Japanese art guilds and animation studios. With business smarts and marketing savvy, Murakami runs his company with great efficiency and has been tremendously successful at his own self-promotion. Images in his signature style are reproduced in mass quantity on watches, t-shirts, purses, and other consumer goods.

Expert Perspective:
Melissa Chiu, Museum Director and Vice President for Global Art Programs, Asia Society

“There is an element in Takashi Murakami’s work that is about this idea of appropriation. I think on the one hand he appropriates ideas from Japanese popular culture, but also it is grounded in Andy Warhol’s practice of marrying art and consumer culture.

Miss ko2 is a life-size sculpture of a curvaceous blonde woman. This kind of sexualized female character is one that we see often in anime, manga, and Otaku culture. He’s creating Japanese-derived icons to export to the world, rather than bringing in Western style icons and adapting them for Japanese society. So there’s a very nice reverse effect that’s happening with Murakami’s work.”

Additional Resources

Cruz, Amanda, Dana Friis-Hansen, and Midori Matsui. Takashi Murakami: The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.

Fleming, Jeff, et al. My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation. New York: Independent Curators International, 2001.

MacWilliams, Mark W., ed. Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008.

Napier, Susan J. From Impressionism to Anime: Japan as Fantasy and Fan Cult in the Mind of the West. New York: Plagrave Macmillan, 2007.

Schimmel, Paul, Lisa Gabrielle Mark, and Mika Yositake, eds. © Murakami.New York: Rizzoli in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., 2007.

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