After Declaring His Business on the Brink of Bankruptcy, Takashi Murakami Is Auctioning a Collection of Smiley-Flower NFTs

Bids are already over $200,000.

Takashi Murakami, Cherry Blossom With Kaikai & Kiki. Courtesy of the artist.

Takashi Murakami is the latest blue-chip artist to embrace the NFT art craze by releasing a set of 24-by-24-pixel works based on his signature smiley face flowers.

“I’m groping in the dark, so I’m sure I will make many mistakes, but please bear with me,” the Japanese artist wrote in an Instagram post announcing the NFT collection, which is called “Murakami.Flowers.” The NFTs are up for sale on OpenSea, with each flower featuring a different facial expression, much like emojis.

Beeple’s $69 million NFT sale at Christie’s inspired Murakami to get into the NFT game, he said. But so did his children, who during the pandemic have been socializing not in the real world, but in the popular Nintendo game Animal Crossing.

“They were watching some fireworks display within the game while talking with their school friends, who they could no longer meet in person, through Zoom, admiring how beautiful it was,” Murakami wrote. “I saw the reality of the shifting values when I realized that these children could discern beauty within a virtual world.”

Murakami announced over the summer that his business, Kaikai Kiki, was on the verge of bankruptcy. If his NFTs are a hit with collectors, each unique piece, encoded on the blockchain, could fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars—and early bids are promising (despite negative comments from fans on social media).

The first “Murakami.Flowers” NFT, titled #0000 Murakami.Flower, has already attracted a bid of 144 ether, or  about $260,395—and the bidding is open for another six days. So far, NFT art auctions have seen a great deal of last-minute action, driving the price into the stratosphere just before the bidding draws to a close.

Takashi Murakami, "Murakami.Flower" (2021). Image courtesy of the artist.

Takashi Murakami, “Murakami.Flower” (2021). Image courtesy of the artist.

Murakami will release 12 new NFTs in the series each day, for a total of 108, a number that “signifies earthly desires in Buddhism,” according to the artist’s statement. The simplistic pixel art is “evoking nostalgia” for Nintendo’s Japanese video game console from the 1980s, Famicom.

The artworks are also the same size of the pixelated CryptoPunks, a set of 10,000 unique NFTs minted in 2017 by Larva Labs. Today, they can sell for over $1 million each, with a rare alien punk selling for a record $7.5 million on March 11.

CryptoPunks, a set of 10,000 unique NFTs minted in 2017 by Larva Labs, can sell for over $1 million each. Image courtesy of Larva Labs.

CryptoPunks, a set of 10,000 unique NFTs minted in 2017 by Larva Labs, can sell for over $1 million each. Image courtesy of Larva Labs.

For his foray into the controversial world of NFTs, Murakami has partnered with video game executive Yoshihisa Hashimoto.

“I am starting this experiment because it amounts to digging down into the nature of art within the realm of VR that are recognizable as such, and further diffusing it,” Murakmi wrote. “Is this merely a slight fluctuation of interest? Or is this the first step towards future values that we don’t yet begin to understand?”

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