NEW YORK — Three days after the opening of the exhibition he curated at the Japan Society here, artist Takashi Murakami was on a tight schedule, giving a private tour of the show, “Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture.”
Murakami has collaborated with Louis Vuitton designer Marc Jacobs on several distinctive handbag collections. The first, colorful logo patterns, some with eyeballs, was followed by cherry blossoms. For spring-summer 2005, he designed smiling cherries. Louis Vuitton anticipated selling about $345 million worth of Murakami products in 2003, making the artist something of a celebrity. In Japan, he sells his work on factory-made watches and T-shirts while his art is bought for six figures.
With his hair pulled into a bun and wearing a black Patagonia vest and a shirt by Haath, an Issey Miyake protégé, Murakami shared his views on art and popular culture and where fashion fits into his life. Murakami answered some questions in English and deferred others to an interpreter. He appeared friendly and talkative, nothing like his depiction as an aloof superstar:
WWD: Louis Vuitton has had unqualified success with your designs. How do you view the collaboration?
Takashi Murakami: With Louis Vuitton, my collaboration started through sheer luck. One day I received a letter from Marc Jacobs. One of my female assistants knew the name and went kind of crazy. She said he was a cool designer. I took the opportunity to collaborate. Now I understand the impact and significance of the fashion industry. As an artist, I wouldn’t pursue it, but if someone approached me I would consider it.
WWD: Should there be a clear line between art and commerce?
T.M.: Initially, I had a resentment of the quality of the printing on the leather of the Vuitton handbags. That year I went to the Venice Biennale and saw the fake Vuitton handbags with my designs. Then I felt, yes, I succeeded in this project. With the fakes, I succeeded in blurring the line between high and low.
WWD: What do you think of today’s fashion?
T.M.: Designers are so creative. To be able to make fashions twice a year or more is amazing. I receive so much inspiration from them. From my collaboration with Louis Vuitton I have begun to look at the fashion industry in general and learned a lot about technique and the process of brand-making and the making of a happening and creating a real trend of the times.
WWD: Who are your favorite designers?
T.M.: My favorite designers are Marc Jacobs and Issey Miyake. I went to Marc Jacobs’ show on Feb. 9. It became a big happening when the show was delayed for 90 minutes.
WWD: Have you ever thought of designing apparel?
T.M.: I was, at one point, thinking of developing a line of kids’ clothing but I don’t have the time now. Two big sportswear companies have contacted me about opportunities. I can’t say the names. But it’s not my interest to do something so similar to what I’m doing. It looks like Part II.