Flower Matango

Collected Works: Art


Flower Matango

by Takashi Murakami

View an image of the artwork

A garish globe is enthroned at the centre of a gilded hall, decked out in plastic frippery. Its spherical mass bulges with grinning, gurning flowers. Daisies dazzle as they blossom, blistering with a rainbow spectrum of pigment. Each petal puffs out, as though drunk on food colouring. From the waterlogged base, mobile branches spring weightlessly. The long, nimble fingers gracefully ascend, reaching for the pinnacle of the lavish ceiling.

Fabricated at the turn of the millennium, Flower Matango announced its arrival at the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors in 2010, as part of a series of interventions at the site by Takashi Murakami. Marrying tactility and tackiness, the work apes the shape of a Holbein orb, flaunting its prestigious lineage. Whether the Matango is seen to be the elegant lady-in-waiting or the leering jester, its creator seems to be quite the court artist.

A collaborator with fashion brands, Murakami has long been harassed by accusations of commercialism. But does his entrepreneurial success not render him a legitimate heir to the eighteenth-century painters of Versailles, patronised by a self-proclaimed elite? The hall’s extant works are not so disparate from Murakami’s addition. The paint of the grand canvases, like the fiberglass of the Matango, is simply the transformation of oil into art.

Flower Matango certainly makes an appropriate match for a regal setting. Its stint at the Hall of Mirrors offered a reflection of the crystal-walled palace, caught through the looking glass. We are left deciding whether to snub or fawn over the distorted image, this gaudily clad, courtly cuckoo. Hypnotic as a waltz, raucous as a royal knees-up, it offers us a glimpse of the dauphin in his new clothes, and a perfectly fitting outfit at that.

Words by Elizabeth Brown

More to discover

More images of Takashi Murakami's artworks at the Palace of Versailles can be found on The Guardian's website. Interviews with Takashi Murakami available online include those by: Matt Schley for Time Out Tokyo; David Pilling for the Financial Times; Cedar Pasori for Complex; and Mako Wakasa for the Journal of Contemporary Art.

Question of the day

Which floral artworks would you recommend, and why?
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I would be happy to stare at Georgia O’Keeffe flowers all day. Recommended just for pleasure. (→)

– Sandro Perri, musician, producer, and member of Off World (via The Brief →)

Angel Soldier, a visual artwork by Lee Yong-baek. A group of soldiers stealthily advance whilst camouflaged by the most amazing floral arrangements. (→)

– Katherine Fieldgate, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Patreon →)

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