October 29, 2007


A word floated up from that evening.

What was it?

Uuuummmmmmm. Yea.



Everyone was lending huge gobs of imprimatur to each other that night. Murakami lent his global exotic Japanese-ness to MOCA (thus fulfilling the Schimmel legacy launched with Helter-Skelter); MOCA+Murakami were lending their art-ness to Kanye West and Marc Jacobs; Kanye West sealed a collaborative deal in a previous video illustrated by KaiKai Kiki LLC; and Jacobs seemed the most generous delivering as he did the heft of fashion world cred, filling everyone's pockets with a most delicious imprimatur galore. As a seat filler for my gallery from Japan, I had about as much imprimatur to give as I could scrape from a fingernail... and I took about as much from the evening, watching the embarrassment of riches that was the Gala.
Walking through the show, it was stunning to see an artist who grew into this position during the same time frame as I had to reach my own dizzy height as a gala seat filler. Humbling, a better word. As I like to say, there are many art worlds, and It was a marvel to witness this part of the artworld, the global museum artworld, inflate itself and float away into a different categyory alltogether, like the very image of Takeshi's professionally fabricated sculptural installations, big toothed cavernous mouths and all. I've mentioned before, this particular phenomena that has caught my attention: that not only are there several artworlds, but that the premier one expressed by the global museum exhibition world is evolving into something altogether different from the kind of the museum as I have grown to understand and appreciate...(READ: THE PRADO, the best museum in the world, if they don't blow the upcoming restoration) and this world is beginning to resemble the huge crowd pleasing spectacles of other epochs: the circus, world fairs, vaudeville, bullfighting, bearbaiting, gladiators in the coliseum. I write this not to trivialize the gala, please don't get me wrong. The night was fun, star studded. There is something important, perhaps necessary to the human spirit that spontaneously conjures spectacle and aesthetic power at this level.

Somebody has to be Takeshi Murakami. Better it is the one person who wants to be him.

And that was the one other thought that floated up in my mind that night: everyone who wanted to be the big dog at this level, became one... be him Pardo, or Hirst, or Bouchel, name your poison*. Bearing this in mind, I wondered if I really ever wanted this, or did I want to be another kind of dog entirely. If the name of the game is to get your attention (you, my dear audience) , then these guys have done their jobs nicely. The strategies of spectacle deployed: huge objects, space grabbing installations, wallpapered rooms, blurred boundaries between the relics of the fabrication process and the objects fabricated, history timelines showing the humble beginnings, commercial links to global brands at multiple levels, audacious commercialism in the costume of contemplative object/act/installation, artist as CEO. It was everything that we were taught to fear and admire and criticize and emulate in school. If the name of the game is to engage my own attention (you, the artist), then that game is of another type... entirely. As someone I knew once, once said: "It's showbiz, Dennis." These are the kind of artists who at least care as much as what you are curious about as what they themselves are curious about. Contrast that to that the kind of artist who gets lost in their curiosity and thus requires a museum to spend eternity plumbing the depths. It's a matter of the difference between Courbet or Cezanne, Puvis de Chavannes or Van Gogh, Keith Haring or Ray Johnson.

There are many artworlds. Don't get too judgmental of one against the other, both types are valid. Each type is different. Our world is simultaneously absolute and relative, that's the beauty of it. The question for me was, will the museum world be able to represent any other artworld than this one, or have they gone the way of the circus and there now exists a civilizational hole where the museum used to be? Could they tell my story if they had to?

(Well, I guess I would have to make them have to.)

Anyhoo, enough about me.

What about the show?

The whole affair seemed to be a gamble for MOCA and the verdict that night was that it paid off. MOCA needed this to work and the whispers about the millions raised that night confirmed the success. Brands, enhanced all around. If the blood of the artworld --of all artworlds-- is prestige, then blood ran in the aisles that night.

The one art form that stood out was the art of the deal. The whole fundraising drive of that night was compensation to the museum for hosting a retail store without sharing in the division of the spoils between artist and retailer, thus soiling the hands of the institution with filthy lucre. Laundered clean lucre came in from sponsors who paid for the tables, the reward for which was to rub against the robust exchange of the aforementioned imprimatur. Add to this, the feeling of collaboration for donors and guests, not only in the substance itself in the artwork (as actors) but causal agents in the process of making it happen. Artist as CEO, engineering a legal entity as artful as a Fortune 500's aspect toward the Federal Tax Code.

The whole show took 6 weeks to install and it required additional staff to meet the deadline. The install aspired to a legendary status and nearly got there. The physical layout was built around an over and under central block that formed the heart of the show. Above was the flower of a collaboration with a Louis Vuitton Store. Below in the bunker was a kind of library cataloguing the early evolution of Murakami's vision, objects arranged in glowing shelved walls in a boutique format, literally underwriting the audacious appropriation of the commercial world with what might be considered the creative soul of Murakami's project. All around this block spun whorls of environments fabricated by state of the art atelier teams.

It was as if the handmade level of Takeshi's creation was a drawing on a balloon where hot ambition was blown into it, expanding to fill the exhibition spaces. Thin but fun all the same like balloons are. It's interesting to consider that for artists of this caliber, say a Paul McCarthy, Walt Disney is the name of the game. I can think of a McCarthy character: the demented Santa dude, the pirate booty thing, the debased painter. I can't think of a Murakami character. Takeshi, for all his accomplishment, has no Mini Mouse. Singing flowers or happy faces with sharp teeth don't cut it for me, sorry. Thin but fun... no problem. And still, it works.

Overheard: "There are tables of artists who are too cynical to buy into it, turning their (KaiKai Kiki signature circular) placemats over in silent protest." (They seem to think that a little integrity might rub off while one rubs on the imprimatur. ?And yet still they rub!) "The chatter over there is so cynical, they looked uncomfortable. But at the end of the night, they were snatching them up to take home."


"Are you going to sell them on E-Bay?"


* That would be "poison", as in a bar drink.

Posted by Dennis at October 29, 2007 9:45 PM

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