Viewing Room Main Site
Skip to content

Tomoharu Murakami’s life and practice involve two major turning points. The first was his encounter with American Abstract Expressionism at the 1964 Guggenheim International Award Exhibition in New York. The monumental canvases he experienced there compelled him to reject the traditional Japanese painting techniques he had been using until that time. Afterward, Murakami embarked on a new approach—one focused on a meditative, meticulous process of building up and breaking down nearly monochrome pieces over the course of months or years.

Murakami has since concentrated on using subtle, unexpected variations of this technique to create richly textured paintings and works on paper that double as records of his dedication to a higher ideal. His paintings consist of a mixture of Japanese pigments and oil paints—almost exclusively jet blacks and reds—mixed with charcoal powder. He applies these materials to the canvas using thousands upon thousands of delicate knife strokes. The works eventually evolve from a basic black underlayer to a complex topography of chromatic and gestural nuance.

Murakami’s works on paper often combine acrylic and oil paint—a feat most artists would claim is impractical, if not untenable—using a pencil for the former and a knife for the latter. In some cases, though, Murakami also renders these pieces by inverting the technique used to produce the black paintings. Rather than just slowly constructing the surfaces, he sometimes works just as painstakingly to wear the accumulated paint away. The end result is just as distinctive and impactful as his canvases, only achieved in a complementary fashion.

The second major turning point in Murakami’s life was his conversion to Catholicism in 1979. After visiting a Trappist monastery in Hokkaido, Japan, he not only joined the church but also modeled his practice on monastic life. For the nearly four decades since, his daily regimen has consisted of little more than painting, praying, eating, and sleeping. Murakami adheres to this ascetic existence in an effort to eliminate the self from his work, hoping instead to access the eternal and the sublime—or, in his own words, to “manifest ‘the profound.’”

Tomoharu Murakami was born in 1938 in Fukushima, Japan. He earned a BFA from Tokyo University of the Arts in 1961. He has exhibited extensively in Japan and internationally in the succeeding years, including at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the New Museum, New York; the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, California; the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Murakami lives and works in Tokyo.

Born 1938 in Fukushima, Japan.

EDUCATION

1961                         
BFA, Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2018                         
Ozasakyoto, Kyoto, Japan
Murakami Tomoharu: Illuminated, Meguro Museum of Art, Tokyo

2017       
Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan                         
Tomoharu Murakami, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, CA 

2016                         
Taka Ishii Gallery New York, New York, NY
Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2015                         
Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2014                         
Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2013                         
Lady Chapel, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2011                          
Gallery Fleur, Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan
Galerie Ando, Tokyo, Japan
Lady Chapel, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2010                         
Galerie Ando, Tokyo, Japan
Lady Chapel, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2009                        
Pietà, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2008                        
Icon, Galerie Ando, Tokyo, Japan
Lady Chapel, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2007                        
Noel, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2006                        
Christmas Book, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2005                        
The Cross: 2005, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2004                        
Galerie Ando, Tokyo, Japan
The Cross, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

2003                        
Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo

2002                        
The Cross, Gallery Shimada, Tokyo
Galerie Ando, Tokyo
Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo

2000                        
Gallery Shimada, Tokyo, Japan
The Stations of the Cross: 1997-2001, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1999                        
The Cross, Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
The Stations of the Cross, Nagoya City Art Museum, Japan
The Stations of the Cross, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1998                         
Gallery Shimada, Tokyo, Japan
The Stations of the Cross, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1997                         
The Cross, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1996                        
The Stations of the Cross, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1995                         
Gallery Takada, San Francisco, CA
Pax, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan
Gallery Kiyo Higashi, Los Angeles, CA

1994                         
Transfiguration, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1993                         
James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Galerie Ando, Tokyo, Japan
Oil/Acrylic and Oil, Gallery Shimada, Tokyo, Japan

1992                         
Paintings and Drawings, James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Gallery Shimada, Tokyo, Japan
Galerie Katrin Rabus, Bremen, Germany

1991                         
Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago, IL
Gallery Kasahara, Osaka, Japan
Gallery Shimada, Yamaguchi, Japan
Stabilitas, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1990                        
Book of Hours, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan
Gallery Shimada, Yamaguchi, Japan

1989                         
Elke Droscher Kunstraum Falkenstein, Hamburg, Germany
James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
The Stations of the Cross, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1988                         
Lithographs, Yoseido Reflection Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Oil Painting, Sano Gallery, Kokubunji, Kagawa, Japan
Oil Painting and Works on Paper, Gallery Shimada, Yamaguchi, Japan
Galerie Dorothea Loehr, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Kunst der Gegenwart Berlin-Tokyo, Galerie Zellermayer, Berlin, Germany
Arbeiten auf Papier, Clemens-Sels-Museum, Neuss, Germany
Works on Paper VI, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1987                         
Oil and Acrylic on Paper/Oil on Canvas, Sano Gallery, Kagawa, Japan
Works on Paper, James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Paintings V, Gatodo Gallery, Takeshiba, Tokyo, Japan
Arbeiten auf Papier, Galerie Kartin Rabus, Bremen, Germany
Arbeiten auf Papier, Die Kommunale Galerie, Weserburg, Germany

1986                         
Prayer Todaiji Temple Shuni-e, Gatodo Gallery, Takeshiba, Tokyo, Japan

1985                         
Works on Paper IV, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Laboratory Gallery, Sapporo, Japan

1984                         
Paintings, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Athens Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1983                         
Ginza Jiyugaoka Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1982                         
Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1981                          
Works on Paper III, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Paintings, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1980                         
Works on Paper II, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1979                         
China - Drawings, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Works on Paper, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1978                         
Works, Gatodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1975                         
Minami Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1974                         
Oil Paintings & Woodblock Prints, Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1963                         
Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Chuo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1962                         
Chuo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Japanese-Style Painting, Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1961                         
Mimatsu-shobo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Chuo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2018
Collection Exhibition-The Places, Art Office Ozasa, Kyoto, Japan

2017                         
Japanorama—New vision art since 1970, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France

2015                         
Hiroshima Trilogy: 70th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing, Part I: Life=Work, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan

2014                         
Yokohama Triennial 2014, ART Fahrenheit 451: Sailing into the Sea of Oblivion, Yokohama Museum of Art and Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall, Yokohama, Japan
From the Terada Collection 049: Delights of Abstraction, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

2013                         
Contemporary Art and Prayer, Chiba City Museum of Art, Japan

2010                         
Out of Silence: Kuwayama Tadaaki / Murakami Tomoharu, Nagoya City Art Museum, Japan
A Selection of Popular Paintings, Daiwa Press Viewing Room, Hiroshima, Japan

2009                        
Kami. Silence: Action Japanische Kunst der Gegenwart auf Papier, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany
Close your eyes… and visualize what you see, Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki, Japan

2008                        
Self/Other, Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan

2005                        
Power of Painting- Today’s Paintings, Iwaki City Art Museum, Japan

2004                        
Kazuo Okazaki and Tomoharu Murakami, Galerie Ando, Tokyo, Japan
Monochrome Paintings: Tadaaki Kuwayama, Tomoharu Murakami and More…, Chiba City Museum of Art, Japan

2000                        
Sinn + Sinnlichkeit, Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, Germany

1998                         
Explore the Mystery of the Colors White and Black, Meguro Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan

1996                        
The Structure of Painting: One Color, One Form, Bunpodo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1995                         
Walk-in Sculpture, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan
Art Cologne 28, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany
Carnegie International Award, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, PA
A Perspective on Contemporary Art: Painting - Singular Object, Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan

1994                         
Skulptur und Malerei aus Japan: N.N. + Tomoharu Murakami, Overbeck-Gesellshaft, Lübeck, Germany
Conversation on the Rim: Joe Goode and Tomoharu Murakami, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
Tsubaki-kai Exhibition ‘94, Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Explore the Mystery of the Color Red, Meguro Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan
Art Cologne 28, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany
Walk-in Sculpture, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan

1993                         
Tomoharu Murakami and Kazuo Okazaki, James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Niele Toroni, Murakami Tomoharu, Gallery Shimada, Nagoya Contemporary Art Fair, Nagoya Citizen Gallery, Nagoya, Japan
Art Cologne 27, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany

1992                         
Murakami Tomoharu, Thomas Struth, Gallery Shimada, Nagoya Contemporary Art Fair, Nagoya Citizen Gallery, Nagoya, Japan
20th Anniversary Exhibition, Kasahara Gallery, Osaka, Japan
Art Cologne 26, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany

1991                         
Japanese Abstract Art 1991, Ginza Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
Cadences: Icon and Abstraction in Context, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY
Paintings from the Showa Era (1926-1989), Part 3: 1945 and After, The Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai, Japan
20th Century Japanese Painting: Modernism and Beyond, Fukuyama Museum of Art, Fukuyama, Japan
Art Cologne 25, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany

1990                        
7 Artists, Shigeru Yokota Inc., Tokyo, Japan
Japanische Kunst der 80er Jahre, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Art Cologne 24, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany

1989                         
Contemporary Japanese Art from the Museum Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan
Print Work by Japanese Contemporary Artists, Galerie Weidendam, Berlin, Germany
Art Cologne 23, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany
On Kawara: Again and Against, Institute of Contemporary Art, Nagoya, Japan

1988                         
ROSC 88, An International Art Exhibition, Dublin, Ireland
Art Cologne 22, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany
The Process of Contemporary Art in Japan, from the Museum Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan
Japanese Contemporary Prints, Walkerhill Art Gallery, Seoul, Korea

1987                         
Art Cologne 21, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany

1986                         
Japanese Contemporary Prints, Munsterberg Gallery, Basel, Switzerland
Black and White in Our Time, Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan
Art Cologne 20, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Germany
Contemporary Japanese Art 1960-1986, from the Museum Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan

1985                         
Contemporary Japanese Printmakers, Perimeter Gallery, Chicago, IL
Trends in Contemporary Art, Part 1: 1955-1975, Morris Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Opening Exhibition: Contemporary Art, Soh Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1984                         
Tadao Sato Collection, Satani Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Art Today: Collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan
Trends in Contemporary Japanese Art, 1970-1984: Universality/ Individuality, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan

1983                         
Collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum: From Postwar to the Present, Part 2, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan
Collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum: Japan and the United Kingdom, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan
Yoshikuni Iida, Tatsuo Kawaguchi, Natsuyuki Nakanishi, Tomoharu Murakami, Isamu Wakabayashi, Gatodo Gallery, Takeshiba, Tokyo, Japan
Best 5 Works from the Annual Exhibition of Japanese Contemporary Prints: 1983, Tokyo Ginza Art Center, Tokyo, Japan

1982                         
Collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum: From Postwar to the Present, Part 1, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan
Best 5 Works from the Annual Exhibition of Japanese Contemporary Prints 1982, Tokyo Ginza Art Center, Tokyo, Japan

1981                          
Japanese Contemporary Prints Show, 1981, Mall Gallery, London, England
Tomoharu Murakami and Satoru Shoji, Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, CA
XVI Bienal International de São Paulo, Pavilhão Armando Arruda Pereira and Parque lbirapuera, São Paulo, Brazil
Contemporary Japanese Art of the 1970s: Trends in Japanese Art, Fine Art Center Gallery (Korean Cultural Foundation), Seoul, South Korea

1979                         
Kusuo Shimizu and Artists, Minami Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1974                         
Japan Fortnight, Neiman Marcus, Dallas, TX

1965                         
Guggenheim International Award Exhibition, John and Marble Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1964                         
Guggenheim International Award Exhibition, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Honolulu Academy of Fine Arts, Hawaii; Haus am Lutzowplatz, Berlin, Germany; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Contemporary Trends in Japanese Paintings and Sculptures, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan
The 2nd International Contemporary Print Exhibition, Minami Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1962                         
The 14th Yomiuri Independent, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Japan

1961                         
The 13th Yomiuri Independent, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Japan

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Cleveland Museum of Art, OH
The New York Public Library, NY
Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, Germany
Clemens-Sels Museum, Neuss, Germany
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Japan
Meguro Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan
Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan
National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan
Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, Japan
Nagoya City Art Museum, Japan
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan
Fukuyama Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan
Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, Tokyo, Japan
Takamatsu City Museum of Art, Japan
Chiba City Museum of Art, Japan
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Japan
Iwaki City Art Museum, Japan
JP Morgan Chase Collection
Deutsche Bank Collection
Nestlé Art Collection
Rolex Japan Ltd. Collection
Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd. Collection