Murakami at the MOCA

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The Murakami Retrospective at the Geffen MOCA, in Los Angeles (October 29-Febuary 11, 2008 ) features over 90 artworks in various media spanning the early 1990’s to the present. It chronicles Takashi Murakami’s effortless navigation between the worlds of fine art and popular culture, by including works that critique Japan’s consumer culture.

Often, Murakami is criticized for his commercial approach and relentless merchandising. However, all he’s doing is taking Pop Art into the 21st century. It is evident that the pretense of Murakami’s work is to break the boundaries between “high” and “low” art. He does so proudly and openly, with no qualms about mass-producing his work.

The best part of the exhibition? A fully operational Louis Vuitton boutique inside the exhibition space.

The controversial Louis Vuitton store is very much alive, situated in the centre of the museum’s cavernous halls, where brand new collaborative Murakami handbags ranging in price from $895-920 are waiting to be snatched up by well to do Californian’s.

The idea came from the MOCA’s chief Curator, Paul Schimmel, who wanted to be the first to put a store into the exhibition space. In fact, the boutique shares no revenue with the MOCA, only Murakami and Louis Vuitton profit from the sales. In the eyes of Schimmel, it seems, the act of viewers buying Murakami’s bags in the midst of a formal exhibition helps break down the boundaries between low and high art.

As pivotal as the exhibition seems, Murakami’s fascination with commercialism and especially his personal Louis Vuitton store has drawn the fury in many art cognoscenti who believe the sanctified institution might be sullying its name by showing the work of someone who, in many circles, is still regarded as a commercial artist.

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