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.”