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Takashi Murakami has been gaining profile for a while now—he designed the slightly hideous album cover for Kanye’s latest, and is collaborating with Marc Jacobs on a pattern for Louis Vuitton—but his nouveau-Warhol shtick has always left most of America shaking their heads.

Witness, for instance, the kerfuffle surrounding his upcoming exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. The fashion press went wild over Vuitton-based rumors—would the museum be hawking LV bags? Would they get a peek at the new Marc Jacobs pattern?—without giving thought to the exhibition itself. Naturally, the art world is skeptical too.

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In Japan, Murakami has gone out of his way to combine art and commerce…even by the relatively lax standards of contemporary art. His figurines, phone caddies and T-shirts are sold in toy stores, candy aisles, and occasionally even Louis Vuitton stores. He’s even set up KaiKai Kiki LLC, a Warhol-esque factory where other artists churn out work under Murakami’s name. As a brand, Murakami has a pretty broad reach, which goes a long way to explaining why he wants a store as a part of his exhibition. Some of his best work is found in Louis Vuitton stores, so why shouldn’t it be in his exhibition too?

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Murakami’s pose is familiar to the fashion industry: balancing concept-heavy art projects with more accessible prêt-a-porter designs. Someone like Hussein Chalayan can make his name with unwearable high fashion pieces and continue his work in a corporate post and no one bats an eye. It is not so much a compromise as a career path, and both halves of the work are seen as equally legitimate. Murakami is taking the same approach to art objects—shrinking them down and making them available for mass consumption—but the art world isn’t ready for such an unabashedly commercial take. They’re worried that the art world will start to look like the fashion industry, and understandably so.

After all, if we start putting stores in museums, why will we need museums?

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom