Japanese contemporary artist, curator and cultural entrepreneur, Takashi Murakami is a lightning rod between different cultural valencies (high/low, ancient/modern, oriental/occidental). Takashi has made a name for himself with consistent cultural defiance since the 90s. He's well known for his manga cartoon style and plate anime which have gone on to appear in sculptures, paintings, drawings and collaborations. Spotlighted by former creative director of Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs, he reworked the label's monogram - resulting in a colorful collab that continued for thirteen years.
Murakami has gone on to team up with Comme des Garcons, Supreme, Vans as well as pukka style paragons Pharrell and Kanye West.
The artist recently spoke to GQ Style about his lengthy, notable career and his constant quest to marry art to fashion. Murakami also reveals a certain fashion collaboration he's been hoping for.
Excerpts from GQ Style :
I know you yourself are a big art collector, what have you been excited by lately?
What set me off when I first started collecting was when my own work sold for almost $16 million at Sotheby’s. I really didn’t understand what it meant—of course I understood the existence of the secondary market and how the auction works, I understood that logic, but I didn’t understand the reality and what it really meant for my work to have that kind of price. It was around that time I had moved to Gagosian, and I was seeing artists younger than myself their prices rising even more rapidly than my piece, and I wanted to know what it feels like to buy such works, so in a sense it was an experiment at first. I was young and wanted to know what the collectors felt like when they bought my work. So in that kind of experimental feeling I bought works that were really expensive, and two years later maybe they were gone and the artists were gone from the scene and the prices had gone down maybe it was only a twentieth of what I paid for, so you’d think oh, I lost out on that. But when that happened if I felt really depressed about it, then it probably meant the work itself didn’t mean much to me. But for the works that I felt like it wasn’t too bad even when the price went down, that meant the work itself had some real importance to me. So in experiencing that I started thinking about how to become the artist whose prices didn’t matter but still had meaning for the collectors. So then it became an exercise in how to become that artist and how to create that kind of work. But then I went on collecting and I became addicted to it and buying itself became a pleasure, but at first it started as experiment and exercise.
As the most prolific collaborator with Louis Vuitton, do you feel you laid the groundwork for the Supreme x Louis Vuitton line?
I don’t think it was me, I think it was Marc Jacobs doing a collaboration with Steven Sprouse. That’s when the gate opened for these kinds of collaborations.
You mentioned that your collaboration with Louis Vuitton [under Marc Jacobs’s creative direction] came about by coincidence.
Right, just around that time I was doing a show in Paris at the Cartier Foundation, so Marc Jacobs saw the show and then contacted me. Probably it wasn’t that he was thinking about me for a long time and then approached me, but just that he was thinking about a broad idea and then saw the show in Paris, and that’s probably why he contacted me.
I’m curious if you still keep in touch with Marc, Kanye, and Pharrell.
Yes, the relationship is maintained in its own way in each case. With Pharrell we’ve been working together for a long time, just last year in November I worked with him on Complexcon, and then also aside from my relationship Pharrell has been working with [my gallery] Kaikai Kiki artist Mister, and that’s been a continuous collaborative project. As for Kanye, if I have a show somewhere he will go see it and then have a one-line message saying, Oh this is fresh!
I read somewhere that your Vans collab came around because you mentioned you wanted to do it in an interview. What do you want your next fashion collaboration to be?
I tend to be a little bit passive in terms of doing these kinds of projects, so I don’t actually have active desire or idea right now, but I love the collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme, so I want to put my own character or something on that bag. Or I just want to have that bag.
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