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Murakami Takashi Sells Out!


Working under an ingenious post-modern rubric, Japanese artist Murakami Takashi has found a way to sell his cartoons to the rough beast of corporate capitalism and have those financial transactions beheld as subversive, progressive endeavor. Greed is good, and just because your logos grace Louis Vuitton bags and the towering monument to capital accumulation Roppongi Hills doesn’t mean it’s not all about the art, man. (sound of cash register)

But if Murakami continues to dedicate his artistic career to helping the super rich get even richer, he should at least have the business sense to protect his brand cachet. LVMH and the Mori Family are the tops of their respective games: So why on earth, Mr. Murakami, are you illustrating record jackets for the lame acoustic band Yuzu?

Yuzu is one of those heart-warming, acoustic-guitar-plus-harmonica acts for music fans who lack the courage to like anything approaching youth subculture. They are the ’90s coffee-house version of The Goo Goo Dolls, doomed to future obscurity for being neither very good, nor sufficiently kitschy. Their mediocrity makes them difficult to hate and even harder to remember.

So, when Yuzu puts together a two-disc Greatest Hits collection (Going and Home), how can Murakami Takashi refuse to take the job? I mean, how totally lame would it be to make art without getting money from giant corporations? If you’ve amassed a huge pool of art-school slave labor, why not use it at every possible opportunity?

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

10 Responses

  1. porandojin Says:

    hmm,well he’s not Madonna hehe, even super-evil Warhol did some free pointless stuff for a band just because he liked its guys ….

  2. Brad Says:

    This is old news. He’s beeng doing album covers for them since 2002. He even did an animated video for them last year or earlier this year.

  3. marxy Says:

    So my bombast is a bit late.

  4. wahei Says:

    what essentially makes murakami interesting is his embrace of popular culture; and why should fine art have to a priori eschew capitalism/commercialism in the first place?

    isn’t the smorgasbord between art and popular culture, esp. epitomized in murakami’s art, the essence of japan-ism, or even post-modernism?

    what i think makes him captivating, whether you admire or despise his art, is the fact that he continues in the indigenously japanese tradition of not distinguishing fine art from craft art/industrial design.
    his art is manga-esque and twee, and some might find it hard to swallow that his work can be “fine art” per se. But he challenges you to take up this notion. likewise, ceramic art, lacquerware, or metalwork were akin to ogata korin’s silk screens, but the west were quick to downplay these artforms since the advent of the world expos in the late 19th century. japanese traditional art didn’t fit into western notions of fine art, such as painting and sculpture. hence, their unfortunate categorization into craft art/design. i think murakami is reminding those who’d forgotten what japanese art really used to be perceived as. and that, in itself, has much to laud, rather than turning one’s nose at his adventures into LVMH land.

    your album, and your blog, are ace.

  5. dzima Says:

    So my bombast is a bit late.

    Marxy, this entry is sooo, like, 2001.

  6. Bezerkley Says:

    While not a huge fan of Murakami’s, I think better that he is still doing artwork for mid-level bands (that perhaps he likes) than stopping because he is too elite now.

  7. marxy Says:

    is the fact that he continues in the indigenously japanese tradition of not distinguishing fine art from craft art/industrial design.

    This tradition seems to be a convenient way to pick up big paychecks. I don’t really buy this argument, because LMVH and Roppongi Hills hire him to add “high art” credibility to their products. I think he probably justifies his own actions through this “craftsman” approach, but I’m not sure I really feel it when I’m looking at 200 crappy Murakami products in the Roppongi Hills gift shop.

    your album, and your blog, are ace.

    Thank you!

  8. Chris_B Says:

    wahei spake of Murakami he challenges you to take up this notion.

    Not much of a challenge to my eyes. I cant tell the difference between his product and the crap at the 100 Yen shops except for the price tags. But then again, I’ve never been known as an affectionado of the fine arts…

  9. nate Says:

    if that wasn’t a typo, “affectionado” is my nominee for neologism of the month.

  10. Jeshii Says:

    Was bumping around the net, and came across this. I’m not big on the guy either, but I gotta say, all these Japanese cutsy things get me in the gut. It’s like some primal mammalian instict to love it… Like if I don’t, I feel like I’m endangering the survival of the species or something. Damn you! I wanna see insectile designs that make me want to eliminate! ;)

    Anyway, so, um, good shit. I’ll have to add yo feed to my Thunderbird (a decade or three ago, no one would be able to understand this sentence…).