Takashi Murakami doesn’t give much credence to his superbrand status. In fact, he doesn’t ever think of his work in that way.
“It’s probably a label that follows me around because of my work with Louis Vuitton,” he said. But despite that lucrative endeavor, the artist was only half joking when he told the crowd at Thursday’s Pratt Legends awards dinner at Pier 61 in Manhattan that his company is “almost bankrupt.”
“I have a company of 130 people. This part is great but I spent the money myself. Even in Tokyo one month ago, I spent $7 million. Then nothing,” he said, referring to the eleventh edition of the GEISAI, an art fair solely backed by his company Kaikai Kiki. “But today, now that I’ve gotten this prize, I am keeping up my courage for the future.”
The ideas are still spouting. Aside from wanting to secure sponsors to expand GEISAI, Murakami will open a Los Angeles office next year as part of his plan “to pursue a new style of film enterprise,” one that is said to be heavy on animation.
Having seen firsthand how Japan’s bubble economy collapsed in the early Nineties, he is already predicting how things will develop in the U.S. this time around. While the art market took 18 months to falter after Japan’s recession, this time the art market should slow down to a halt as early as next spring, Murakami predicted. But his work will be free from Wall Street’s storm clouds. “I’d much rather approach it through the lens of fantasy than express it as a reality,” he said. “Take Ridley Scott, for example. His recent films are very realistic but when it comes to the ability to communicate a timeless message, they can’t compete with a fantasy like ‘Blade Runner.’”
Dressed in a Louis Vuitton camouflage jacket, yellow cashmere sweater, jeans, sequined bow tie and Lego “T” pin at the dinner, Murakami was nothing if not sunny. As for his impression of fashion today, he said, “I sense a sort of confusion about what is sexy. I’d like to see something more glamorous, like funk music fashion of the Seventies.”
In the meantime, he is nonplussed about critics of art’s commercialism, noting business practices in the sports industry have evolved and become more elegant, due partially to Michael Jordan’s and Tiger Woods’ hands-on branding strategies. “In comparison, we could say we haven’t even begun to see a full-scale commercialism in the art world,” Murakami said.
Time will tell, and “only time is truly impartial” is in fact the best advice anyone ever gave him, Murakami said.
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