Takashi Murakami (Japanese, born 1962) Tongari-kun (Mr. Pointy) Costume 2003

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Lot 36W
Takashi Murakami
(Japanese, born 1962)
Tongari-kun (Mr. Pointy) Costume

Sold for US$ 187,812 inc. premium
Takashi Murakami (Japanese, born 1962)
Tongari-kun (Mr. Pointy) Costume

fabric, fiberglass and metal

108 by 36 by 30 in.
247.3 by 91.4 by 76.2 cm.

This work was executed in 2003.


  • Provenance
    Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, USA
    Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    "We want to see the newest things. That is because we want to see the future, even if only momentarily. It is the moment in which, even if we don't completely understand what we have glimpsed, we are nonetheless touched by it. This is what we have come to call art."
    -Takashi Murakami

    Takashi Murakami is one of the most influential and best-known contemporary artists of our time. His piercingly clever combination of fine art, pop culture, design, religious references, Japanese art history and cartoons, have penetrated global culture at almost every level and in almost every location. His bold and colorful paintings, sculptures, prints and design collaborations, most famously with Louis Vuitton, are infused with Japanese culture and voraciously collected by a devoted international audience. Murakami occupies the rare air of a fine artist that is also embraced by a wide audience, inviting comparisons with Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. Coming to auction for the first time, Tongari-kun (Mr. Pointy) Costume (2003) is a rare and spectacular example of Murakami's playful and subversive practise.

    Murakami developed the Superflat theory of art, exploring the "flatness" of Japanese visual culture teamed with the shallowness of the country's consumerism. From the Superflat vantage point, the artist has explored the vast history of Japanese culture from classical art forms (Murakami holds a BA, MFA and Ph.D. from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he studied Nihonga, a style of traditional Japanese painting) to subcultures that have emerged since World War II. One notable subculture is kawaii which translates in Japanese to "cute." Kawaii has been associated with a fashion of women's dress in Japan and generally refers to anything that is childlike, charming and/or vulnerable. "Cuteness" is a way to be non-confrontational and signal social conformity – but even this harmless banality is not without an undercurrent of violence and sexuality. Murakami is a master of harnessing dualities, as can be seen in the present work. Superficially the work is a charming costume, but it holds a deceptive, slippery complexity that is a hallmark of the artist's most acclaimed works.

    Drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Buddhism and Manga, Murakami has developed recurring characters in the dramas of his work since the 1990s. One of the most prominent is Mr. Pointy ("Tongari-kun" in Japanese), who is depicted in the present lot. Monumental sculptures of this character have been exhibited at New York's Rockefeller Plaza in 2003, the Palace of Versailles in 2010, and have been included in the artist's seminal 2007 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Brooklyn Museum, New York, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, and Guggenheim, Bilbao. Murakami uses costumes frequently in his practice to inhabit different identities and further bring to life the universe he has created in paintings and sculptures, with many costumes worn during the openings of major shows. So important are they to his practise, eight of the artist's costumes were exhibited in 2019 as part of a major survey exhibition, Murakami vs Murakami at Tai Kwun Contemporary in Hong Kong.

    Combining the figure of the Buddha with children's cartoons, Mr. Pointy has numerous arms, a multi-colored pointed promontory on top of his head and rainbow colored markings on his body and legs. Similar to many of Murakami's best works, Mr. Pointy's overwhelming cuteness is seductive and inviting, but the fantasy he inhabits boarders on the hallucinogenic. On closer inspection, the frown and mismatched wandering eyes are more crazed or creepy than cute, and the viewer is left wondering as to whether the figure is a playful and cuddly friend, a subversive criticism of infantilizing consumerism, a blasphemous critique of religion, a stand-in for the artist himself - or all of the above. Rather than representing one single theory, Mr. Pointy becomes an all-encompassing manifestation of dueling forces in contemporary culture with Murakami's skillfully aware and relevant combination of references that, in concert, are more than the sum of their parts.

    Takashi Murakami's work has been widely and continuously exhibited world-wide since the 1990s. His works are included in major museum collections globally. He lives and works in his native Japan.
Takashi Murakami (Japanese, born 1962) Tongari-kun (Mr. Pointy) Costume 2003
Takashi Murakami (Japanese, born 1962) Tongari-kun (Mr. Pointy) Costume 2003
Takashi Murakami (Japanese, born 1962) Tongari-kun (Mr. Pointy) Costume 2003
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