After Jeff Koons and Veilhans Xavier in 2008 and 2009, it is the turn of the Japanese artist to provoke a wave of heated reactions on the theme “Commercial contemporary art & Versailles, one of France’s finest and most famous examples of Classic Art”. The reaction would be an easily predictable one. Why do we have to always criticize what we do not fully understand?
The petition “Non à Murakami et Co” gathered 4,300 signatures that were against this exhibition. The manifestation held at the gates of the palace against this “commercial art”, seen as “devoid of artistic interest”, sparked waves of comments in the press and media. Fortunately, all this have not hampered the exhibition and its initial planning. The exhibition was successfully launched in September and was ongoing for three months. And Murakami filled 15 rooms with his work of art with his first French major retrospective.
If everyone expected to find Lonesome Cowboy exposed here (initially estimated at $4 million dollars and sold for $13.5 million), Murakami showed that he moved on, and hasn’t been sleeping on the glory of his works that shocked most the world. This is an important detail which I appreciate while looking at an artist’s work. Especially in the light of the French press that is condemning Versailles’s policy for choosing to exhibit renowned contemporary artists instead of supporting young emerging talents.
Takeshi Murakami, only 47 years old, is rated as one of the best contemporary artists, with a creative empire extending from Tokyo to New York, that he directs with perfection, concentration and a highly self-exigent attitude. Yet many say he is a man in a hurry.
Takeshi dreamed of becoming a director of animation films. Following courses of traditional Nihon-ga painting, he graduated as a painter from the University of Beaux Arts and Music in Tokyo.
He remains loyal to painting and sculpture, starting to be noticed in the contemporary art world in 2001, when one of his sculptures reaches an auction record in New York of over 420 000 euros.
Recognition outside the art world came for him in 2004 when Marc Jacobs, big fan of the artist, proposed a collaboration for Louis Vuitton’s leather goods line. A new logo and new patterns are created, adapted to the classic leather designs and especially to those emerged from this alliance. This creative partnership inspired Kanye West to commission Murakami in 2007 with the artwork for the cover on his Graduation album.
One of the works who intrigued me the most was The Simple Things, his collaboration with Pharell Williams who was sold in 2009 at Art Basel Miami Beach with 2,8 million dollars. Takashi Murakami’s cartoon-inspired signature character Mr. Dob keeps in his mouth seven important things for Williams such as a cup cake, a small bottle of Heinz ketchup, a sneaker, a can of Pepsi, a bottle of Johnsons baby lotion, a little bag of Doritos. All covered in 26 000 diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds and made of white, yellow and pink gold. It seemed to me to be more about American culture and rappers billionaire dreams than about Japanese art. Or maybe this is what it really was about, a private joke just the two artists understood.
Considered the promoter of the Japanese neo-pop art current Superflat, Murakami seeks for autonomy from the Western “neo-pop pattern”. Here he plays with the sense of antagonisms and their concepts: East – West, past / present, “chic” art -“gutter” art.
Although not a great lover of contemporary art, I greatly admire his constant manner of seeing things in a fun and accessible way, starting from the moment he reaches that balance where an artist considers his work completed.
His unpretentious way of searching for a balance of cultural landmarks, brings a simplicity and sensibility that he then communicates openly to his public.
Even if it is true that Murakami is a highly publicized artist, he could have been as well a young talent.
A work of art is the expression, the sharing of an emotion. The emotion an artist puts into his work is not something one can falsified. On Sunday afternoon when I visited the exhibition, the emotion was there. Pure. Palpable.