We all know Takashi Murakami as one of the biggest contemporary artists of Japan. His colourful, eye-catching pieces and designs have influenced fellow artists, musicians, fashion designers, you name it. Murakami has made his artistic mark on the world. But Murakami is more than a contemporary artist: to him it’s important to showcase artworks by up-and-coming Japanese artists. Since he first burst out onto the art scene, Murakami has been organizing special (group) exhibitions for young artists, and in 2002 he established a biannual art show titled GEISAI, which has exhibited hundreds of emerging Japanese artists. The next installment of GEISAI will be held in September of this year. His goal is to have them share in his success by launching them under his wing. In Japan it’s very hard to succeed as an artist, and even more so to break through onto the art scene, so he wants to provide them with as much guidance and support as he can. Some of these young artists also work under Murakami for the Kaikai Kiki group; creating the famous Murakami artworks together with the master, in a group-like setting much like artists like Andy Warhol and Rembrandt did before him. The goal of Kaikai Kiki is to produce and promote Murakami’s artwork and merchandise and to simultaneously manage, promote and train young artists under the supervision of Murakami.
One of the many exhibitions of young artists organized by Murakami was Tokyo Girls Bravo, presented at the Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York in 2004. It was the third Tokyo Girls Bravo exhibition held by Murakami, the previous two were held in Japan in 1999 and 2002. The New York show included a selection of 10 contemporary female artists that form part of Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki group. Their works give a unique insight in their vision of modern Tokyo life, from a female perspective, and the difficulties they face as they try to project a strong self-image in a society where women are traditionally expected to be demure and virtuous. The artists participating in the Tokyo Girls Bravo exhibition were Chiho Aoshima, Chinatsu Ban, Aki Fujimoto, Yumiko Inada, Hisae Iwaoka, Rieko Kasahara, Makiko Kudo, Mahomi Kunikata, Rei Sato and Aya Takano. Their work clearly showcases the influence of the Manga and Otaku culture in Japan, while merging the cute and even dram like images with dark subjects such as depression, melancholy, nostalgia, abandonment, masochism and sex. The resulting artworks are powerful, innovative, shocking and intriguing.