Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Art and Business, Business and Art

There’s always been a demarcation between the art and business parts of art museums. That line is about to be challenged big time soon, and it’s not by a sponsor or power mad business manager, but an artist. The Japanese artist Takashi Murakami hit the global art world like a meteor. Anyone who was in New York last year will remember his amazing sculptures at the Rockefeller Center. Combining high art and popular culture, he mashed business ideas and art ideals. Franchiser, edition maker, brand manager and licenser, Murakami sends his work into the world as high-end sculptures, collectible vinyls, limited edition soccer balls, even luxury key ring accessories. In collaboration with the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles, Murakami is putting his no seams vision of business and art into higher gear. The provocation in this major survey exhibition will be a fully operational Louis Vuitton store. Murakami has already designed bags and accessories for the luxury brand, but to demonstrate that this partnership is as central to his art as his million dollar paintings, the Vuitton store will be in the middle of the exhibition. A store that takes credit cards and wraps merchandise right at the heart of it. Murakami and Vuitton won’t be quarantined at the end as in most see-them-and-shop-them shows. As MOCA’s Chief Curator says, "People have touched base with the play between the commercial arena and high art, but this is a little more confrontational."

The exhibition opens in October and the prospects are fascinating. I’ve always seen the future of the store as a Theater of Dreams and Murakami is accelerating that future. I often look to art for foresight into how we will do business and connect with consumers – like any creative outfit that wants to stretch, we have provocative art around at Saatchi & Saatchi – and Murakami’s Vuitton store is a fantastic new attractor. As Andy Warhol once said, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”


Susan956 said...

Kevin, Definition of terms here. "High-end" I take to mean expensive and aimed at the upper socio-economic strata. Does this of itself define "high art"?

How is high art being defined here and what is the gap between simply saying pop culture art and "high art and popular culture" as a combo?

I am reminded of the literary canon and the debate about mainstream writing and equating mainstream with cheap and less worthy.

Is high art considered 'serious' art as some would have it? If so, what makes Murakami's work more serious than an art student attempting similar works?

Is high art considered appropriate for the 'cultured' in society and is it them, in the main, who apply and market the term 'high art' - in one sense to separate what they choose to support from the 'uncultured'? Is there a drive to counter accessibility and if so what motivates that drive?

If one makes class distinctions, isn't pop art, by definition subversive? If one adopts this view then the marriage of 'high art' and pop culture is either an anomaly or just complicating what is quite simple.

Is it impossible to call art 'pop culture' simply because of a price tag? Is there a reason to make certain art exclusive? Does price, of itself, imply that the art is 'good'?

In part the issues I raise are what art is supposed to be about vis raising consciousness and discourse (apart from being appealing to the eye etc) however I must admit that I resist a consistent presentation of 'high art' without any discussion of what this actually means - apart from expensive.

I WILL acknowledge that I do have a certain reverse snobbery. Admitting that is fair play in the context. However I cannot just accept that a label should be..well..accepted, without some criteria discoursed and some persuasion offered.

Do *I* believe some items are particularly fine and distinguishable from the pack? Yes. In part for me that is expertise in workmanship, clever use and adaption of materials, unique statements perhaps - but certain workmanship is high on the list. And this IS one criterion that will often distinguish from a student's work.

Anonymous said...

The truth will set your free! Thanks for the heads up!

NY, LA, Miami Artist Series
Joe Dirosa

Kempton said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for linking to Takashi. A very interesting artist and a wonderful businessman indeed. Love this Wired magazine article that his site links to.
BTW, the article is by Jeff Howe (also known to me as the man who coined the term Crowd Sourcing).

Kempton said...

I forgot to quote this from the Jeff Howe Wired magazine article (I especially love the last two sentences of this quote),
"Warhol took from the low and gave to the high. With ironic detachment, his work - paintings few could afford, films few could understand - appealed to an audience in on the joke. Murakami, on the other hand, takes from the low and gives to the high, the low, and everything in between. He makes paintings, sculptures, videos, T-shirts, key chains, mousepads, plush dolls, cell phone caddies, and, last but not least, $5,000 limited-edition Louis Vuitton handbags. Murakami's work hits all price points: This fall he plans on selling plastic figurines packaged with bubble gum - a Murakami for $3."

Kempton said...

Sorry Kevin for posting three comments in a roll. I think this is a record for me. I promise to not post more tonight. (smile)

So I found and would like to share a few more things on Takashi Murakami - artist - dream-maker

NPR audio segment: Takashi Murakami, Japan's Andy Warhol

Interesting CNN Takashi Murakami Q & A

more on Takashi,

Susan956 said...

Well, good to see accessible art Kempton but I hope it's larger than a plastic hippo from a cereal box. Then again, what have I got against plastic hippos I wonder....

Your point however of an artist striving to cross socio-economic strata meets one aspect of what I raised.

Susan956 said...

By the way, y'all realise that it's often worth looking back through topics as Kevin comments here and fact I just growled at him over something.. :)

mattw said...

The nod to art combining with fashion in a tangible way reminds us that advertising is the same thing. We combine visual aesthetic with consumer products to assist the buyer in aligning with the product through taste and personal sensibilities. To invert the relationship of the design aesthetic and to bring the retailer into the museum is a revolutionary idea and might actually get me out of my office and on my bike for the 5 minute ride into Little Tokyo to see the exhibit. As advertising and the aesthetic progresses in this digital age, we need to explore and reflect on how the end user reacts to art, and the transactional sense of the retail connection point with the consumer. As advertising evolves this connection with the consumer is constantly being redefined, sales for LVMH may not spike from this exhibit in LA, the idea revolving around the role reversal is a great mental and visual exercise for any marketer.

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I'd agree with Matt in saying that the idea of combining art and fashion is wonderful. The two industries cross paths so often without actually working this closely together.

Some of his pieces are truly incredible!

Susan said...

I also agree with art and fashion - tho I considered them meshed all along I think.

I mentioned this briefly in a past article here - a fashion designer here brought out her exhibition which was about combining fashion and architecture. Her father was an architect and I loved the design of one dress that had inverted Opera House elements. I was unable to readily locate a link however fashion and architecture have been strongly discussed themes here. One example: