Château de Versailles

Murakami Versailles

Exhibition by Takashi Murakami in the Château de Versailles

14 September to 12 December 2010, Grand Apartment and Hall of mirrors, included in the tour of the Grand Apartment. Delegate producer : Château de Versailles Spectacles

Murakami salon d'hercule

“For a Japanese like me, the Château de Versailles is one of the greatest symbols of Western history. It is the emblem of an ambition for elegance, sophistication and art that most of us can only dream of.
Of course, we are aware that the spark that set fire to the powder of the Revolution came directly from the centre of the building.

But, in many respects, everything is transmitted to us as a fantastic tale coming from a very distant kingdom. Just as French people can find it hard to recreate in their minds an accurate image of the Samurai period, the history of this palace has become diminished for us in reality.

So it is probable that the Versailles of my imagination corresponds to an exaggeration and a transformation in my mind so that it has become a kind of completely separate and unreal world. That is what I have tried to depict in this exhibition.

I am the Cheshire cat that welcomes Alice in Wonderland with its diabolic smile, and chatters away as she wanders around the Château.

With a broad smile I invite you all to discover the wonderland of Versailles.”

Takashi Murakami

Images : Takashi MURAKAMI Oval Buddha Silver 2008, Argent - 136.5 x 80.5 x 78 cm - Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles © 2008 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. Château de Versailles/Salon de l’Abondance © Florian Kleinefenn.
Takashi MURAKAMI - Tongari-Kun 2003 - 2004, Fibre de verre, acier et huile, acrylique et peinture uréthane - 700 x 350 cm © 2003 - 2004 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All right reserved. Photo: Florian Kleinefenn - Salon d'Hercule / Château de Versailles

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Some artworks of the exhibition

Discover some artworks of the exhibition. Text by Laurent Le bon, curator of the exhibition, extract of the audio-guide of the exhibition.

Tongari-Kun (Mister Pointy)

Hercules salon

“Tongari-Kun”, alias “Mister Pointy” in English, is the first work that the visitor sees in the exhibition. It is probably one of the most fascinating figures in Murakami’s universe, based on a religious iconography that combines the Maya culture and Tibetan Buddhism. The figure is about 8 metres high and stands on a base consisting of lotus flowers and a frog. We recognise in the meticulous attention brought to the detail the trademark of Takashi Murakami’s studio. Thousands of colours are used, and it took four years to complete this work. Visitors will note the relation between it and the extraordinary painting on the ceiling by François Le Moine which overlooks it. This dialogue between the work of Murakami and this unique setting featuring French classical art of the XVIIIth century contains some of the spirit of this new adventure in contemporary art in Versailles."

Hercules Salon; 2003-2004; Fibreglass, iron, synthetic resin, oil paint and acrylic paint, 700cm (height) x 3.50m (circumference)

Oval Buddha silver

Work presented to the public for the first time; Abundance Salon

"The Abundance Salon, the first room of the King’s Grand Apartment, is the setting for the second work of the exhibition: “Oval Buddha Silver”. The Abundance Salon was the antechamber of the King’s Cabinet of Curiosities, where he stored and displayed his most precious objects. What better setting to show his “Oval Buddha Silver”, an emblematic figure of Murakami’s universe, packed with mannerist detail? Here we find all the ambiguity of the figures of Takashi Murakami. On the one hand, a meditative face with a frog’s mouth and a goatee beard that evokes both the figure of the emperor and the artist himself who has one. On the other hand, at the back, masked from the visitor, a more terrifying face with shark’s teeth. The “Buddha” is carried on an elephant, the symbol of endurance in the artist’s work and in Buddhism in general. This sculpture came out of a collaboration with Issey Miyake, probably one of the greatest fashion designers in the world. He has always sought to create bridges between Japan and the West and the same quest is expressed in the art of Murakami. “Oval Buddha Silver”, an essential element of Murakami’s pantheon, echoes the last work of the exhibition on the Water Parterre in the garden: another authoritative version of this figure that dominates the grand perspective of the Gardens laid out by Le Nôtre."

Work presented to the public for the first time; Abundance Salon; 2008; Silver; 135.5cm (height) x 80.5cm (width) x 78cm (depth)

Kaikai Kiki

Venus Salon

"The two figures of Kaikai Kiki are installed in the Venus Salon, under the patronage of the goddess of Love. These two figures are spiritual guardians: Kaikai, white with big ears, and Kiki, pink with three eyes and more daunting than Kaikai. On the ears of the two figures can be seen the symbols of these two names in Japanese characters, names which are at the centre of Murakami’s aesthetic universe. In fact, “Kaikai Kiki” is a Japanese word describing the works of Kano Eitoku, a 16th century painter. This not very well-known artist created a body of work based on the essential aesthetic approach that can be summed up in the idea that the bizarre and the refined go together, or the grotesque and sensitive are closely linked. This is the opportunity to introduce another essential concept in Murakami’s work: the idea of “kawai”, the idea of “cute”. This does not refer to a peaceful world but to a refined world populated by the figures of Murakami. In the Venus Salon, the spiritual guardians Kaikai and Kiki holding their spears find their place on either side of the statue of king Louis XIV."

Venus Salon; 2000 – 2005; Fibreglass, iron, synthetic resin, oil paint and acrylic paint 222cm (height) x 96cm (width) x 46cm (depth)

Kinoko Isu : medium and large

Mercury Salon

"In the Mercury Salon, the two elements of the work called “Kinoko Isu” form a kind of rare and original pieces of furniture. It is worth remembering that most of the furniture of Versailles has disappeared. But, contrary to what one might think, this was not solely due to the French Revolution but also to the changes of taste by successive monarchs. Murakami thus adds in his own way a contemporary touch with these mushroom stools, “Kinoko”, stars of the artist’s plant world. Murakami has in fact become a sort of specialist in these mushroom elements, rather strange and psychedelic plants between land and sky. This work also makes an allusion to a much more tragic episode in Japanese history: the atomic bombs dropped during the Second World War. The “Kinoko” stools have another feature: the extraordinary eyes mentioned above, inspired by “Yakume”, the character with a hundred eyes."

Mercury Salon ; 2003 ; Fibreglass, steel and acrylic paint, 40cm (height) x 171.5cm (width) x 114.7cm (depth), 40cm (height) x 294.4cm (width) x 97cm (depth)

Yume Lion (The Dream Lion)

Work presented to the public for the first time ; Apollo Salon

"We find the Yume Lion in the Apollo Salon. This sculpture covered with gold leaf takes on its full meaning in this room that used to be the most sumptuous one of the king’s Grand Apartment, first used as his bedroom before becoming the Throne Room. This gilded lion, the king of the animals, echoes the painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud depicting Louis XIV, the Sun King, in royal costume, as well as the six gilded wooden occasional tables made in 1769 for the Hall of Mirrors by Toussaint Folliot and Augustin Pajou, and the two gilded decorative andirons representing two crouching lions in the fireplace. Yume Lion, by Takashi Murakami, was originally the mascot of a Japanese television channel, Tokyo MX. The animal then had a mane with rainbow colours, “symbol of diversity, dreaming and peace”, according to the artist. By producing a sculptural version of this television icon, Murakami likes to think that this lion will have a longer life than the channel itself."

Work presented to the public for the first time ; Apollo Salon ; 2009 – 2010 ; Aluminium and gold leaf; 165cm (height) x 127cm (width) x 105cm (depth)

Kawaii - Vacances et Untitled

King's Guard room

"Kawaii – Vacances Summer Vacation in the Kingdom of the Golden" ; 2008 ; acrylic painting and gold sheet on canvas ; private collection and "Untitled" (carpet) ; 2010 ; polyamide carpet.

Flower Matango

Work presented to the public for the first time ; Hall of Mirrors

"At the end of the perspective of the Hall of Mirrors, an exceptional work was needed, and the role is taken by “Flower Matango” that can be translated as “floral monster”. We detect here a homage to the garden art of Louis XIV and the folly of this Hall of Mirrors. And there is perhaps as many colours in “Flower Matango” as in all the magnificent paintings recently restored in the Hall of Mirrors. “Flower Matango” is a creature derived from a Japanese film made by the creators of Godzilla. The monsters are the result of the absorption of mushrooms until their bodies burst, releasing dozens of extraordinary elements, which take the form in the “Flower Matango” sculpture of amazingly elaborate stems. In this work we find all the genius of Murakami, a great expert in painting flowers. In fact, he spent two years painting flowers every day, and then spent nine years teaching floral art."

Work presented to the public for the first time ; Hall of Mirrors ; 2001 – 2006 ; Fibreglass, iron, oil paint and acrylic paint ; 315cm (height) x 204.7cm (width) x 263cm (depth)

Oval Buddha

Work presented to the public for the first time

Work presented to the public for the first time ; Water Parterre ; 2007 – 2010 ; Bronze, steel and gold leaf 568cm (height) x 318.9cm (width) x 311.5cm (depth)




Photos : Gilles Truyens © EPV


Answers to visitor's questions

Jean-Jacques Aillagon, Head of the Palace of Versailles, answers some visitor's questions about the exhibition Murakami Versailles, from 14 september to 12 décember 2010.

Why Murakami ? Marianne, Paris

What's the point of exhibiting contemporary Art in Versailles ? It's an unsuitable venue. Carlos, Madrid

Why are you hosting exhibitions by famous artists instead of giving young creators a chance ? Fred, Paris

It would make more sense to refurbish the chateau first... Viviane, Montpellier

It's pornographic ! Mireille, Le Chesnay

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Biography of the artist

portrait murakami

With a PhD in Nihonga painting from the Tokyo University of the Arts, Takashi Murakami has developed a signature style where the most modern techniques combine with the skill and precision of traditional Japanese art, particularly ukiyo-e (floating world) prints. Inspired by manga and kawaii (cute) culture, his irresistible world is inhabited by monstrous or charming characters, the mischievous descendents of past myths.

In 2001, Murakami established the Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. based in Tokyo and New York, and now also in Los Angeles, a veritable breeding ground for artists that produces exhibitions, animated films, events such as the GEISAI contemporary art fair, as well as catalogues and merchandise goods.

The ‘Superflat’ aesthetic that Murakami theorized in 2000 attempts to blur the line between high and low art through all mediums including painting, sculpture, wallpaper, animation, fashion, and merchandise.

Since his first monographic exhibition outside Japan in 1995 at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Murakami has become recognized as one of the most prominent contemporary artists of his time, and his work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at museums and art institutions throughout the world, including The Meaning of the Nonsense of the Meaning in New York at the Center for Curatorial Studies Museum, Bard College in 1999, P.S.1 in Long Island City, NY (2000), Grand Central Station in 2001, the Fondation Cartier and the Serpentine Gallery in 2002, the Rockefeller Center in 2003, and recently in the traveling retrospective ©MURAKAMI, shown first at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007, then followed by shows at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK) in Frankfurt, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

As a curator, Murakami challenges accepted notions of history and culture. With his three-part Superflat exhibition, which toured in major museums in America and Europe, he attempted to introduce Japanese artists, animators, cartoonists, etc., to an international audience, under the premise that such categories of creativity are not as rigid in the Japanese system and might all be thought of as “art.” In 2005, the exhibition’s final installation, Little Boy, suggested a new interpretation of history through a political exposition of the A-bomb and postwar Japanese popular culture.

He became known to the general public when fashion designer Marc Jacobs first asked him to reinterpret the Louis Vuitton monogram for their Spring/Summer 2003 line. And thus the collaboration began, as well as through his two animated films, SUPERFLAT MONOGRAM (2003) and SUPERFLAT First Love (2009), where Murakami’s characters are immersed in a psychedelic, multicoloured, Vuitton universe.

In 2008, Time magazine named him as one of the 100 most influential personalities in the world.

Takashi Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, Japan. He lives and works in Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles.

Picture : Portrait of Takashi Murakami. All artworks © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All right reserved. Photo: Kenji Yagi

The Exhibition by Jean-Jacques Aillagon, President of the Château de Versailles

Galerie des Glaces

Versailles has always brought together the greatest creative artists. Louis XIV brought Louis Le Vau, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Robert de Cotte, Charles Le Brun, André Le Nôtre, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Michel-Richard de Lalande, Molière, Carlo Vigarini, François Francine and Gianlorenzo Bernini, who created great works here.Subsequent rulers invited Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Jean-Marc Nattier, Jean-Henri Riesener, Richard Mique, Jacques-Ange Gabriel, Hubert Robert, André Ernest Modeste Grétry and many others. Louis Philippe, who established the Musée de l’Histoire de France (Museum of the History of France) at Versailles, made use of the most illustrious artists of his era. We owe some of the masterpieces of the Galerie des Batailles and the Salles des Croisades, to such artists as Eugène Delacroix, Horace Vernet and Louis-Ernest Meissonnier.

 It is in keeping with this spirit of openness to creativity that the Etablissement Public du Musée et du Domaine National de Versailles now wants to allow great artists of our own era to work at the locations under its care.

Following the international success of the exhibition Jeff Koons Versailles in 2008, and the remarkable creation of site-specific works by Veilhan in 2009, it is now the turn of Takashi Murakami who is invited this year to present his work at Versailles. By creating new works for this occasion, which will be added to existing ones from his repertoire, he will continue Versailles’ long tradition of openness to creativity.

Murakami is one of the most celebrated artists of our time. The combination of his fame with that of the Château of Versailles will show the degree to which, despite the centuries that separate them, the masters of the past are able to enter into dialogue with those of the present, and vice versa.
Murakami’s talent has created new imagery, drawing on both the resources of the tradition of his country, from the Japanese cartoons known as manga, but also pop culture. His virtuosity, his familiarity with precious materials and his sense of the mediating role of art, find, within the vast “machine” of creation, innovation and communication which is Versailles, a fascinating echo.

Jean-Jacques Aillagon.
President of Château de Versailles Spectacles
President of the Établissement public du musée et du domaine national de Versailles
June 2010

The exhibition by Laurent Le Bon, curator of the exhibition

salon de l'abondance Murakami

Murakami Versailles is an exceptional occasion which sees the Château of Versailles reconnect with the artists of its day through the medium of a walk allowing you to (re)discover the known and unknown spaces of the estate.

If there is a place where risks must be taken to create a true expression of our era and not an imitation, which is often easy to do, it is Versailles. Contemporary artistic creation allows another perception of this living, ever-changing monument. It is not a fixed model of one single era, it is difficult to define, but, like every element of our heritage, the fruit of a complex amalgamation of expressions and interventions, contemporary ones included. Artistic creation contributes a little to breaking the clichés surrounding this location which materialise in the uses of the spaces, which are sometimes conventional and narrow. By revealing its complexity, its substance, its different layers which have been buried under habit, it is a question of offering new points of view of a site which everyone believes they already know.

Murakami Versailles is a walk, a trail through the “landscape area” of Versailles. For his first major retrospective in France, in the 15 rooms of the Château and in the gardens, the artist presents 22 major works, , of which 11 have been created exclusively for this exhibition. The general public will be able to view and admire his creations, which are often technical masterpieces. The allegories and other myths of Versailles thus carry on a dialogue with the dreamlike creatures of Takashi Murakami, sometimes inspired by traditional Japanese art. “I seek to produce a creative process which is a bridge between the past and the future” he likes to remind us.

The temporary installation of the works of one of the best-known artists on the contemporary scene, at one of the most visited monuments in the world is a surprising ‘story within a story’. It is the question of the in situ which underlies this proposition. Numerous cultural institutions have attempted ‘clashes’ in recent years between historical heritage and contemporary work. The radicality of this exhibition seems different to us, as much through the chosen location as through the structure of the journey. Echo, dialectic, opposition, counterpoint … it is not our role to decide. This unique experience seeks above all to spark a reflection on the contemporary nature of our monuments and the indispensable need to create our own era. Notre Dame, Les Invalides, the Panthéon, the Louvre, Versailles, to name but a few of the best-known, contemporary in their time, are genuinely multilayered with numerous interventions, beside which Murakami Versailles is on a more modest scale. And yet on each occasion there are the same objectives : never to minimise the singular character of every artistic gesture and never to turn the pure imagination of the creator into heritage.

Some principles which have guided us for this unique three months experience : avoid the trap of contemporary art “integrated” with the historical monument; (re)discover a space; rejoice about working with a living artist and the resulting emotions, failures and surprises; give pleasure. Trust one of the best artists of our time to reveal another Versailles, a Versailles of today, a living monument from the perspective of its utility value; this is the intention of this event. Through sensual pleasures, the walk, a new labyrinth of Versailles, has the purpose of both distracting and entertaining the walker, beyond the clichés. This is an ephemeral extravagance, a risk to be taken. Versailles, formerly a “field of experiments and a multidisciplinary laboratory” for the most audacious creations, notably during parties, deserves this contemporary artistic expression.

Laurent Le Bon
Curator of the exhibition
Director of the Centre Pompidou-Metz

Sponsors and Partners

Sponsors of the Exhibition

Qatar Museums Authority in association with Doha Cultural Capital 2010.

Partners of the Exhibition