To walk into the Takashi Murakami show at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in LA is to enter a hallucinogenic mash-up of Pop and traditional references that obliterate the already blurry line between art and commerce. Murakami’s world is populated by paintings and sculptures of smiling flowers, mushrooms with eyes and all manner of creatures done in a whole palette of shiny candy colors. It’s also available for purchase. There is a gallery of 500 mass produced goods in the “Kaikai Kiki Merchandise Display Room”, a Louis Vitton store complete with cash registers, and a line to get in to the MOCA store. Even if you don’t want to take a little piece of Murakami’s work home you have to appreciate his industry. There is a video viewing room where you can sit on a smiling flower patterned carpet and watch a Kanye West video, the first part of an animated KaiKai & Kiki film (you have to return to the exhibit two more times to see the complete film), and a sample of an upcoming live action project. Outside the room is a monitor showing a looping series of short videos done in the form of commercials advertising Inochi (life) staring a young futuristic humanoid amongst Japanese school children. What makes the exhibit more than just a crass commentary on consumerism and the commoditization of art is the breadth of Murakami’s references. While his chosen vocabulary is that of the contemporary Japanese anime/manga/otaku culture he references Buddhism and traditional Japanese art.
It seems like a lot of art today is about spectacle and the Murakami show certainly falls into that category. But it is that quality and the questions that it raises about art and commerce that make it worth seeing.
For information online about the show check out www.moca.org/murakami/