Our Exhibits

The Vancouver Art Gallery presents exhibitions of work by artists ranging from historic masters to leading-edge contemporaries. These include major thematic exhibitions, presentations of solo artists and smaller, more focused showcases. In a typical year, 2 to 3 exhibitions are borrowed from other institutions and 10 to 12 exhibitions are developed in-house, drawing on our permanent collection and loans of works from around the world. In addition, the Gallery tours a few of its exhibitions each year.

Current Exhibitions

Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

February 3 to May 6, 2018


Takashi Murakami, Tan Tan Bo Puking–a.k.a. Gero Tan, 2002, acrylic on canvas mounted on board, Private Collection, Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin, © 2002 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Takashi Murakami
Klein’s Pot A, 1994–97
acrylic on canvas mounted on board in plexiglass box
Colección Pérez Simón, Mexico
© 1994–97 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd.
All Rights Reserved

Takashi Murakami
Flower Ball (Lots of Colors), 2008
acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on board, Collection of Cari and Michael J. Sacks
© 2008 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Nathan Keayaluminum

Takashi Murakami
Isle of the Dead, 2014
acrylic on canvas, Private Collection
© 2014 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Robert McKeever, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Takashi Murakami
Embodiment of "Um", 2014
FRP, stainless steel, zelkova wood, and acrylic
Courtesy of the Artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo
© 2014 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Andrea Rossetti

Takashi Murakami
Flowers, flowers, flowers, 2010
acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on aluminum frame
Collection of the Chang family, Taiwan
© 2010 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg is a major retrospective of Takashi Murakami’s paintings, presenting more than fifty works spanning three decades of the artist’s career. The first survey of Murakami’s work to be shown in Canada, this exhibition showcases the artist’s paintings from his earliest mature work to his recent large-scale projects, including a newly created five-metre-tall sculpture and three multi-panel paintings created specially for the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition. This critical survey reveals the consistent themes and profound engagement with history that have guided Murakami’s practice. The paintings and sculptures in this exhibition highlight a dedication to craftsmanship and a boundless imagination moving freely within an ever-expanding field of aesthetic decisions and cultural inspirations, from Buddhist folk traditions to art history to popular culture.

Murakami’s paintings from the early 1980s synthesize traditional painting techniques and formats with contemporary subject matter. Trained in the Nihonga style of Japanese painting, which uses mineral pigments for vivid colours and meticulous craftsmanship, Murakami melded traditional materials and aesthetics with contemporary subjects including the dangers of nuclear power and global consumerism.

Murakami’s negotiation of traditional and contemporary aesthetics in both Japanese and American culture moved into new territory in the late 1990s with the development of his distinctive “Superflat” concept. Both a style and an ethos, Superflat addresses the cultural attributes of post-World War II Japan, in particular the popular image of Japan as a producer of saccharine consumer products such as Hello Kitty. Within a Superflat world, the otaku—an obsessive manga, anime or tech geek—becomes a driver of contemporary culture. These theories significantly influenced Murakami’s output from this period, which employed highly refined classical Japanese painting techniques to depict a supercharged mix of Pop, anime and manga content within a flattened representational picture plane.

This distinctive style has yielded some of Murakami’s most popular and recognizable forms, including Mr. DOB, a mouse-like character that serves as part ambassador, part self-portrait. Mr. DOB has paved the way for other characters throughout the artist’s career, with a palette of signature motifs—anime eyes, jagged teeth, rounded letterforms. Demonstrating the fluidity of his Superflat concept, these figures become visual skins that spread over and occupy any imaginable surface, from paintings, sculptures and wallpaper to plush toys, stickers and other consumer products. Furthermore, Murakami considers his collaborations as “disruptions” to the expectations of a highly stratified art world system that prizes exclusivity and elitism.

After locating himself at the centre of luxury and celebrity cultures, Murakami began to depart from the commercial, cartoon-inspired aesthetic that garnered him popular acclaim. Deeply affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan, the artist returned to his training in the classics to find an appropriate response. His research into Buddhist iconography lead to his monumental representation of the Arhats (Buddhist monks) who roamed the land in an attempt to console and enlighten others. This fuelled an ongoing body of paintings depicting an eccentric and highly individualized group of Arhats with elements of both historical and contemporary Japanese and Buddhist culture.

Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and curated by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator

Major Sponsors:
Brian and Andrea Hill

Supporting Sponsor:
Coromandel Properties

Additional Support:
Chan Family Foundation

Generous support for Murakami’s Georgia Street Façade project:
Artworkers Retirement Society

Funding toward shipping costs for Chakras Open and I Drown Under the Waterfall of Life, installed in the Gallery’s Rotunda, is generously provided by:
Japan Foundation

At the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago the exhibition was supported by:

Lead support provided by Kenneth C. Griffin, Helen and Sam Zell, Anne L. Kaplan, Cari and Michael Sacks, Galerie Perrotin, Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, Gagosian, Andrea and Jim Gordon, and Susan Gaspari-Forest and Robert Forest.

Major support provided by Blum & Poe and Liz and Eric Lefkofsky.

Generous support provided by The Bluhm Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Jennifer and Alec Litowitz, Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., Matt Bayer and Joyce Yaung and the Bayer Family Foundation, The Japan Foundation, Robert J. Buford, Marilyn and Larry Fields, Nancy Lerner Frej and David Frej, and Dana and Brian L. Newman.



FEB 02
Vancouver Art Gallery | Commodore Ballrooom

Murakami's Birthday Bash

Join us for a special evening to celebrate Takashi Murakami’s birthday and the opening of his first retrospective exhibition in Canada, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Commodore Ballroom.




Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg
Take a piece of the exhibition home with you! A landmark publication accompanies Takashi Murakami's major retrospective exhibition and presents the first serious consideration of his work as a painter.

Publication available in the Gallery Store.