Wednesday, May 09, 2007

America: Takashi Murakami Channels Rembrandt and Dürer

My art dealer friend in Manhattan alerted me to this NYT article on Takashi Murakami's latest art show there. The following is the main part of my response, slightly edited. I usually stay away form writing about this sort of thing, but I think it made sense. I hope you agree.

I have no opinion on the artistic merits of Takashi Murakami's work. But the tea ceremony in traditional wear and the Daruma iconography of his latest body of work would be considered the stalest of clichés it if they had come from anyone other than Murakami.

What interests me more is that I think he is deliberately copying the pre-modern art business model, where workshops of the Rembrandts and the Dürers churned out masterpieces and not-so masterpieces for their wealthier clients and reams of cheap monochrome knockoffs for the less well-off. This tradition, of course, had been continued by the Diors and the St. Laurents and their cultural offspring, the artisan cousins of high art. Another way of looking at Murakami is that he is taking this scheme to another level of moneyed clients.


gen said...

I saw that same article and had a different reaction.

Jun Okumura said...

Thanks, gen.

I think you'll agree that there is no real conflict between our comments. I mostly refrained from passing judgment on aesthetic value of his work. (You can see I am skeptical of the value of his latest work beyond brand marketing.) And we both seem to see some value in the collaborative, corporate aspects of his activities.

Incidentally, when I was seven years old, I got a Valentine Day Card addressed to "gen". From a boy. NTTAWWT.

Emily said...

I agree with the points you and Gen made. The young artists he's associated with (esp. Chinatsu Ban; I even saw an exhibit of hers in Texas) have gotten a ton of exposure, which is nice to see. But I saw Murakami speak at the NY Japan Society a couple years ago, and he was surly, arrogant, he's going back to his "roots" in a kimono?? Please. I'm glad someone's *finally* calling out the emperor :)

Jun Okumura said...

Thanks for dropping by, Emily.

Taking both your comments together, I think that "impresario" would be a fair characterization of Mr. Murakami.

The art dealer once told me that, from the artists' point of view, there's a lot of luck involved in their eventual success or lack thereof. Artists need sponsors, art dealers who will give them badly needed exposure and steer them to clients who will buy their work on the art dealers' recommendations, and otherwise guide them up the artistic ladder and not coincidentally providing financial benefits to the collectors of their work. The art dealer's point was that there are a lot of talented artists, but few of them make it commercially, and those that do are not necessarily the most talented, nor the most industrious. You have to be noticed by the right people.

Mr. Murakami's genius is, then, his knack for bringing the two roles together. He is his best and most important creation. In this media driven era, that is no small feat, one that separates the Madonnas from the Britney Spears.