I love Takashi Murakami and his art.
The redeemed cosmopolitanism that curator and critic Dave Hickey highlighted in his Sante Fe Biennial back in 2001 was a fantastic catch-all for an artist who loves sheen, style, otaku and the baroque rendering of some kind of primordial iconography.
But there's something annoying about Murakami - and I can't quite work out whether it's him, the bad behavior of those who surround and promote him, a bit of both or a bigger message about art. :-S
There's a major retrospective of Murakami's work currently on show at the Brooklyn Museum.
At the gala opening last week, outside the museum, in pride of place, were street vendors
the kind typically seen on many New York/Hong Kong/Paris/whatever avenues, selling "Louis Vuitton" bags
writes Vanessa Friedman in the London Financial Times.
Guy Trebay in the New York Times gives an eyewitness account:
Standing outside them were men who resembled the African immigrant vendors who haul around telltale bundles of alluring, cheapish and almost-right copies of stuff from Gucci and Louis Vuitton. This time, however, these characters were playacting. The goods laid out on trays and tarps were real Vuitton accessories. They cost, as they do in the stores, a bomb.
The entire stunt - or piece of performance art, to use Friedman's words - was designed to publicize counterfeiting.
In the words of the Chief Executive of Louis Vuitton:
It's an opportunity to send an artistic and political message, showing that street vendors can be good - they're part of the life of a city - but that counterfeit is bad - it destroys that life.
What is all of this? Art? Politics? Pure public relations?
Yes, to all of them.
But Murakami needs to watch out.
It's great that the street show defiles those who cherish the idea of art as the creation of a unique primary object and exhibitions as a pompous opportunity to celebrate and investigate all of this.
It also great that the blood boils when street culture is appropriated and selectively edited to make a pseudo political/promotional point on behalf of a luxury brand, and for an elitist band
who had almost certainly never bartered for an $80 copy of a $1,400 bag off a blanket on the sidewalk.
But Murakami is in danger of becoming a vehicle for moral judgement - and judgement over an economy that's a well-spring of his happy aesthetic.
For the black economy is an intrinsic part of the energy and joy of the city, its obsessives and obsessions.
And it's somewhere in this culture that Murakami and his art finds its strength and expression.
Images of Brooklyn Museum street market courtesy of Athlete Movie.