Takashi Murakami (1962 Tokyo - )

Takashi Murakami is quite possible my favorite artist in the whole world. He does tons of art that exploits Japan's obsession (or said obsession) with cute things. Murakami created the character Mr. DoB and has run wild with him. He has a workshop 'Hiropan' that pumps out tons of Mr.DoB mechandise from watches to shirts. He does plenty of very abstract paintings also. I seriously suggest that everyone checks him out.

This spring the hot ticket item is definitely the "Eye Dare You!" bag designed by artist Takashi Murakami, who creates oppressively colored and scarily cute images of large blinking long-lashed eyes in bright pastels. His work is so iconic it's easy to understand why Marc Jacobs might have fallen in love with it. What's more difficult to explain is why Murakami went along with the LV brand, which for decades has symbolized elitism. After all, his work is dystopian, frightening images of cultural excess - in effect, a critique of everything LV stands for.

 The New York Times quotes Murakami as saying it "may be a little old-fashioned" to separate art and consumerism. That's a very mild statement for an artist not known to mince his words. he has in the past savagely critiqued the Japanese museum system for being acquisition-oriented, more like hobbyist collectors and not like true curators of culture. The same New York Times article reports Marc Jacobs as saying, "His colors were extraordinary, the sculptures and paintings so visually seductive that it really didn't matter whatever story was behind them."

 Much as I admire Marc Jacobs, I do think it's important to look at Murakami's story behind the eye candy, because it doesn't really seem to fit the LV brand story. An interview in February of 2000 has Murakami arguing that "my art expresses hopelessness":

If my art looks positive and cheerful, I would doubt my art was accepted in the contemporary art scene. My art is not Pop art. It is a record of the struggle of the discriminated people.


His argument is that the otaku are discriminated against. He as a fascination and sympathy for various otaku communities, but he's clearly somewhat suspicious of it too. Cariacatures such as Hiropan (see right) lampoon the action figures that decorate many otaku shrines. His art examines otaku values - collecting objects that no one else values - and although he parodies acquisition culture and consumerism, he understands it. And - as he himself will be the first to admit - he profits off of it too. He plays the same game of art, value, and consumerism.

 In the same article, Murakami discusses the film Love and Pop by Anno Hideaki, based on the novel by the other famous Murakami, Ryu. It's a pseudo-documetary about a high school girl who falls into the world of enjo-kosai, dating for money. Murakami the artist says he thought the film was excellent, and notes that it's about fantasy - the fantasy of value. "For girls, famous brands are equal to their fantasy."

 Famous brands like Louis Vuitton, for one. Now Murakami has created an actual fetish object for women and girls to collect. How will this change his imagery and his stance as something of an iconoclast in the modern art world? Perhaps the most radical subversion in these post-post-modern times is to create culture for corporations....