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Takashi Murakami, Japan's Andy Warhol

Now On Display in Boston, the works of one of Japan's most prolific contemporary artists. With Serena Altschul now we'll view the art ... and meet the artist: 

Most artists struggle to break into mainstream culture. Takashi Murakami is not one of them. His Instagram is filled with familiar celebrities, and his work has been featured everywhere from a Kanye West album, to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Louis Vuitton bags.

Altschul asked, "Why do you think your work is so popular here?"

"I don't know," he replied. "This is my big question, too. So just, you know, good timing."

To say Murakami is a character is an understatement. And his work is just as unique as he is -- works like those now on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

One painting, titled "Lots, Lots of Kaikai and Kiki," is a prime example of Superflat, a modern art movement pioneered by Murakami. Superflat merges pop art and anime with fine art techniques, putting them together on one surface.

"Lots, Lots of Kaikai and Kiki" by Takashi Murakami (2009). Acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on aluminum frame (Five panels). Private Collection. © 2009 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Each work may be comprised of several large panels. "It's very reminiscent of a Japanese screen," said curator Anne Morse.

The Boston exhibit shows yet another layer of Murakami's art, by pairing the works of this modern Japanese artist with traditional Japanese art.

"From the very beginning, he's been so aware of these masters from the past," said Morse. "It's not just a simple appropriation. And talking to him, you get a great sense of his study of these."

Take a look at these two dragons, created more than two centuries apart.

Left: Detail from Soga Shōhaku's "Dragons and Clouds" (1763). Right: Detail from Takashi Murakami's "Dragon in Clouds - Red Mutation: The version I painted myself in annoyance after Professor Nobuo Tsuji told me, 'Why don't you paint something yourself for once?'" (2010). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. William Sturgis Bigelow Collection; © 2010 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
"And then, and then and then and then and then / Original Blue" by Takashi Murakami (2006). Acrylic on canvas mounted on board.  © 2006 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Murakami's work is largely inspired by his upbringing in Japan, after the Second World War. Born in 1962, he began painting as a teenager at a time when cute, childlike images were gaining popularity. 

Murakami's art is a spinoff of those images -- a commentary on what he considers a vacuous post-war consumer culture, and lingering trauma from the atomic bombs.

Morse said, "He's very conscious the fact that Japan lost the war, that there's still some inability to reckon with that past. So, there is that tension in his art between these cute art figures, but also the thinking behind it."

Murakami's main studio is in Saitama, Japan. There, he works around the clock alongside more than 100 assistants on everything from silk screening to merchandise.

Assistants at work in Murakami's studio in Saitama, Japan. CBS News

His focus on consumerism -- both in his art and successful branding -- has conjured up memories of another artist. 

He has been referred to as "the Japanese Andy Warhol."

Altschul asked, "You often hear your name compared to Andy Warhol, modern-day Andy Warhol. How do you feel about that? It's okay?"

"Yeah, yeah," he replied. "I was very happy, because, you know, 'Oh, my God. He's a big guy, right?'"

But even without the comparisons, Anne Morse said Takashi Murakami has a place in history.

Morse said, "When time passes, I think we'll actually see him as being a very significant player in this time, and representative of this time."

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Story produced by Sara Kugel.

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