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tom moody

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The New York Times ran two articles on Takashi Murakami this week, Roberta Smith's review of the show he organized at the Japan Society, which I quibbled about here and here, and a magazine profile by Arthur Lubow, which I've only skimmed. The musician Momus writes about the latter piece on his weblog, from the angle that he's glad the Times has discovered post-Modernity and recognizes that the Japanese have long been living what the West mostly theorizes about. That is an interesting thing about them--especially the degree to which their popular culture explores the post-human melding of people and machines in the tropes of the cyborg, the giant robot, artificial environments, etc.

Still, do we need the extra loop of pop culture --> Murakami's traveling museum road show --> NY art dealers --> NY Times --> pop culture or do these ideas disseminate to the West just fine through your local video and comic book stores? In other words, if the Japanese have no "high-low" distinction (as these articles are saying) and if Murakami's art and Japanese pop culture are one and the same, why do we need Murakami making this culture available at a higher price level? I maintain his main function is to make Western curators feel better about themselves that they have multicultural content and are "down with the whole Japanese postmodern thing," and once he's in an institution then Chip and Muffy just have to have one. But his work is thin compared to the real thing.

On the high-low dichotomy, I said earlier the Japanese have no Romantic, starving-in-a-garret tradition, before reading in the Lubow article that Murakami famously sleeps on the floor of his studio. But hey, we all know some of the richest people in the world are some of the cheapest, bringing lunch to work in a brown bag, driving a beat up car, paying their employees nothing. That's how they got rich--by keeping their overhead down. In the Lubow piece a curator mentions the sleeping bag factoid, dutifully building the Zen monk artist hype around Murakami. Yet it's hard to square the image of this dude walking the earth like Caine in Kung Fu also licensing his designs for Vuitton handbags and going after a younger artist like Eric Doeringer who dares to appropriate his precious work. PT Barnum had a phrase that applies to many working in US art institutions.

- tom moody 4-10-2005 9:21 pm [link] [5 comments]