Takashi Murakami at the Vancouver Art Gallery
At times the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami has irritated me to no end. My first major encounter with his work was at the highly irritating (see?!) 2008 Brooklyn Museum exhibition that was so sponsored by Louis Vuitton. Well, it was more like highjacked by Louis Vuitton, which put a stand with its bags, some of which were for sale, in the middle of the exhibit, and staged a mock Canal street style fake bag stand that sold real $2000 LV bags that long presaged the similar antics by the likes of Vetements and Diesel today. This vulgar display of commercialism tarnished the whole thing. Before that, of course was the much-hyped collaboration with Louis Vuitton (obviously they did not sponsor the exhibit out of the goodness of their capitalist hearts), which, like that with Stephen Sprouse, presaged the avalanche of fashion-artis collabs. Recently, there was an even more questionable collaboration with the ubiquitous Off-White, brokered by Larry Gagosian, the Bernard Arnault of the art world. Murakami’s constant self-knowing smirk that accompanied these crassly commercial stunts told of his complicity more than of anything else. Any attempt of defending him with the usual tropes of “subverting” or “reclaiming” was annulled by his knowing what he was doing. He might as well had put a big “SELLOUT” sign on his back. Some of the work looked crowd-pleasing, sometimes downright infantile, its popularity proving the truism that adults are the new children, chucking out all pretenses at the seriousness of art. Murakami seemed to find his success equally at selling art to hip-hop billionaires and selling incredibly overpriced plush toys at museum shop. And yet. And yet.