The new exhibition Takashi Murakami: Walking on the Tail of a Rainbow (until September 25) at The Broad in downtown Los Angeles begins outdoors. Visitors can scan QR codes on the sidewalk and conjure up two animated AR, or augmented reality, projections thanks to a collaboration with Instagram. One floats above the lawn next to the museum: a giant, very 3D Mr. DOB, the creature with the head and spherical ears most associated with the artist himself. He blinks and sits happily on a cloud, surrounded by colorful smiling flowers.
The other appears in a breezeway where visitors line up to enter the museum: a bunch of those same flowers wink and smile above your head as you walk forward. Flowers are also quintessential to Murakami, made prominent in his fine art sculptures and paintings, and frequently reproduced on T-shirts, caps, posters and even limited-edition Louis Vuitton bags that are collectibles. . In real and virtual forms, they are also part of the solo exhibition Murakami which recently opened at Gagosian New York recently.
This is The Broad’s first foray into AR and Murakami’s first activation in an American museum, a way to attract visitors, entertain those waiting in life, and amplify their experience when they go inside. “I saw that Takashi had done some preliminary AR in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo,” says Ed Schad, Broad’s curator who curated the exhibit, “It was an Instagram collaboration. As this exhibit was developing, I approached him and said, is it possible to do a similar thing at the Broad?”
Within weeks, Murakami and his team began working with Instagram, which in turn hired The Buck Company, a Los Angeles-based animation and design studio, to set it up. “It was an extremely sped-up timeline,” says Buck’s creative director Jeni Wamberg. “Normally, it takes us about six weeks to complete an AR activation. Just one. In this case, we completed six different AR activations, all of which were museum-quality, in record time.” They started on April 12 with a physical tour of the museum. The locations were jointly selected, with key input from Schad, and five weeks later the activations were up and running. “We worked closely with all the partners involved,” Wamberg says. “Meta (Instagram’s parent company) paid for everything, but they also provided the Spark technology.” [Spark is the platform running the AR activations.]
Dressed in an oversized, form-fitting gray jacket with camouflage pants and orange sneakers, Murakami came for the wide preview, looking at the AR on a phone and the artwork inside. The creation of the ARs was made easier by the fact that some assets were already available at Murakami’s studio, Kaikai Kiki, and passed on to Buck. Still, there were difficulties working in two languages and two continents, Murakami says through an interpreter. “The language of AR technology is not something I know. And so the communication was very challenging and challenging.
The AR segments inside are also 3D and animated. The first was to a curved wall leading to the exhibit. Two fierce traditional Japanese guardian figures that one might find flanking the entrance to a temple stand in individual alcoves carved into the wall. Further ahead, before the title wall, there is an AR version of Murakami and his pet Pomeranian welcoming visitors. Inside the exhibit is a long gallery with two more AR activations that appear on either side of the paintings facing each other. They are manga-style silver characters, Hiropon and My Lonesome Cowboy, that come out of holes in the ground. (These iterations have been sanitized. The original works were part of his “body fluids” series from the late 1990s.)
In the same room is the 82-foot-long painting that gives its name to show, In the land of the dead, step on the tail of a rainbow (2014) which is inspired by the 18th century painter Soga Shohaku. Like Shohaku’s painting Gunsenzu (Immortals), the epic work features Taoist immortals endowed with magical powers. Murakami created this epic work in recognition of the disasters that struck Japan in 2011: the Tohoku earthquake, the subsequent tsunami, and the collapse of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. On the left half of the painting is the large black skull of Death, while nearby an assortment of immortals frolic and board a ship amid the swirling waves. The right half shows full-length portraits of these grotesquely humorous demigods playing instruments, holding babies, lounging in indolence.
The exhibition includes 18 works, including 12, including In the land of the dead, come from Broad’s own collection. The others are on loan. The museum also has DOB in the strange forest (blue DOB) (1999), an installation of a fully dimensional Mr. DOB surrounded by colorful mushrooms, on the left as you enter the exhibit.
Murakami says he’s happy with the results and thinks the AR segments will draw people into work. “For people who aren’t really familiar with my art, maybe it’s hard to fully understand,” he says. “So I thought having an AR component would kind of broaden the entry point. I think as a first communication step, that’s a good thing.
- Takashi Murakami: Walking on the Tail of a Rainbowuntil September 25, The Broad, Los Angeles