Behind the HYPE: How Takashi Murakami’s 'Flowers' Became a Pop Culture Symbol

The smiling floral motif synonymous with the Japanese artist also has its darker origins.

By
Arts 
28,580 Hypes 3 Comments

Takashi Murakami’s multicolored Flowers motif has etched its mark in the contemporary art world, fashion, pop culture and beyond. The joyful character has appeared on Kanye West album covers, Kid Cudi’s chains, Drake’s hoodies, and even an Art-Basel art piece with Pharrell. Since the first Murakami Flowers artworks debuted in 1995, the Flowers have steadily taken over fashion. Ben Baller jewelry, Porter bags, and a Tourbillon watch all sport the now-iconic smiling Flowers, and the his Louis Vuitton collaboration, which drew heavily on the Flowers, lasted almost two decades. More recently, a flowery Supreme x Takashi Murakami box logo raised over one million for COVID-19 relief.

While prints of his flower paintings sell in the thousands and a painting can fetch millions at auction, Murakami’s Flowers have also attracted leading imprints in both the streetwear and luxury fashion realms. The artist helmed a collaboration with Vans featuring the character across limited-edition graphic tees and skate decks for the brand in 2015 as well as a spin on Vans’ classic slip-on. In 2018, Murakami connected with Virgil Abloh to host international exhibitions that coincided with a range of paintings, sculptures, t-shirts, prints and a Murakami leather tote bag screen-printed with the Flowers and Abloh’s signature script. In 2019, his partnership with READYMADE saw the Flowers embellished on shorts and cushions crafted with military wool textile. That same year, Murakami also released a collaboration with MoMA with the pair purveying $150 USD plush pillows.

Murakami’s Flowers also have co-signs from the biggest names in music. Beyond the memorable visuals for Kanye West’s 2007 album Graduation and the upcoming animated television show Kids See Ghosts with West and Kid Cudi, Murakami’s Flowers were also spotlighted in a project with OVO in 2018 which combined the Flowers motif with the OVO owl. Murakami also released a merchandise collaboration with Billie Eilish for Uniqlo, incorporating the Flowers and visuals from the 2019 music video for “You Should See Me in a Crown,” directed by the artist himself.

The inspiration behind Murakami’s Flowers motif came from his early studies of Nihonga, or traditional Japanese-style painting. One of the subjects in Nihonga is “setsugetsuka,” which translates to snow, moon, flowers. Murakami attempted to paint flowers in this tradition, but he instead painted 50 flowers each on a stem with two to three leaves, and thus, the Murakami Flowers motif was born. While his Flowers appear whimsical and innocent, the motivations behind Murakami’s smiling floral figures are much darker. In a 2005 article from the New York Times, the artist explained that the smiling Flowers evoked repressed, contradictory emotions and collective trauma of Japanese locals triggered by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings back in 1945. The violence portrayed in the artist’s aforementioned animated video for Eilish, especially showing the decimation of the Flowers, makes the sinister concept even more apparent.

For our latest Behind the HYPE, HYPEBEAST relays the origins and mass hysteria behind Takashi Murakami’s Flowers motif. Watch the video above to learn more and then check out some more Behind the HYPE videos here.

Read Full Article

What to Read Next

Behind the HYPE: How FootJoy Became the Leader in Golf Footwear
Footwear

Behind the HYPE: How FootJoy Became the Leader in Golf Footwear

Presented by FootJoy
Spotlighting the golf shoe worn by more players at every PGA Tour event for the last 75 years.

Behind the HYPE: How the Louis Vuitton Monogram Became A Global Phenomenon
Fashion

Behind the HYPE: How the Louis Vuitton Monogram Became A Global Phenomenon

From Coco Chanel to Dapper Dan to Kanye West, the LV monogram owes its hype to a little help from high-profile friends.

Behind the HYPE: How Bike Life Became a Pop Culture Flash Point
Sports 

Behind the HYPE: How Bike Life Became a Pop Culture Flash Point

Presented by HBO Max
Chronicling the street sport’s rise, culminating with the release of ‘Charm City Kings.’


Behind the HYPE: Pokémon TCG Exploded in 2020. This Is How It Happened

Behind the HYPE: Pokémon TCG Exploded in 2020. This Is How It Happened

High-publicity Charizard and Blastoise card sales are just part of the story.

Spotify Loves You. Will Everyone Else?
Music 

Spotify Loves You. Will Everyone Else?

How the streaming platform’s playlists became a market-shifting force in the music industry.

Reebok Question Mid "Court Green" Salutes Old-School Philadelphia Eagles Jerseys
Footwear

Reebok Question Mid "Court Green" Salutes Old-School Philadelphia Eagles Jerseys

With a jersey-like mesh upper, vibrant green accents and gridiron pattern-printed insoles.

Anwar Carrots Designs Limited-Edition Holiday Sweatshirt With Grey Goose
Fashion 

Anwar Carrots Designs Limited-Edition Holiday Sweatshirt With Grey Goose

Presented by Grey Goose
Introducing a fresh and festive collaboration.


fragment design and Braun Collaborate on Clocks to Launch Dieter Rams Exhibition in Japan
Design

fragment design and Braun Collaborate on Clocks to Launch Dieter Rams Exhibition in Japan

“LESS BUT BETTER Dieter Rams: The World of Braun and Vitsœ” will also showcase Rams’ original designs.

Detailed Look at the Air Jordan 4 "Fire Red"
Footwear

Detailed Look at the Air Jordan 4 "Fire Red"

Jordan Brand is bringing the heat this Black Friday.

HeeSoo Kim Explores "The Other Side of My Mind" in Latest Seoul Exhibition
Arts

HeeSoo Kim Explores "The Other Side of My Mind" in Latest Seoul Exhibition

Self-portraits that reflect dark emotions caused by the ongoing pandemic.

More ▾
 
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Gain access to exclusive interviews with industry creatives, think pieces, trend forecasts, guides and more.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Adblock Detected.

We charge advertisers instead of our readers. If you enjoy our content, please add us to your adblocker's whitelist. We'd really appreciated it.