3 Stories

Takashi Murakami

"In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow"

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Open The Gallery
5 Images
Open The Gallery
5 Images
Open The Gallery

The first thing you notice when you pull up outside the front doors of Larry Gagosian’s eponymous gallery is the long line pouring down the street. The line is made up of both young and old New Yorkers in skinny blue jeans and black fedoras. You might look down at your phone to double-check the address and ensure you have not mistakenly arrived at the opening of a new hip night club. You have not: the address is correct, and this is the opening reception for Takashi Murakami‘s latest exhibition, entitled In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow.


If you are familiar with Takashi Murakami’s artwork and the artist’s ability to both draw from and seep back into popular culture, this scene does not confuse you. The line, the crowd, the entire affair, fits perfectly in line with the career of the Tokyo-based artist whose work has appeared both in the salon of the historic Chateau of Versailles near Paris, and imprinted on a not-so-limited edition of cherry blossom Louis Vuitton bags.


However, Murakami’s latest exhibition, on display at Gagosian Gallery’s Chelsea location until January 17th, 2015, takes a dark departure from much of his work that precedes it. Since the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, Murakami has “explored Japanese art produced in response to historic natural disasters.” His new exhibition is a colorful commentary on traditional and contemporary belief systems as they evolve out of disaster and calamity, combining, “fiction, manga, and Buddhist and Shinto imagery, Murakami investigates the role of faith amid the inexorable transience and trauma of existence.”


In the Land of the Dead… opens with perhaps its most spectacular piece, “Bakuramon”, a life-sized 56-ton wooden replica of a sanmon temple, Rashomon, the historical gate to Heian Kyo (Kyoto), Japan’s capital and largest city of the eleventh century. Many Japanese myths and legends begin at the gates of Bakuramon. But here the wooden structure sits heavily in the center of the clean cubed room, its rugged edges and chipped exterior a juxtaposition to the space around it. You may notice the light scent of aged wood that fills the large room, and then the two menacing deities with spiraling horns, towering over the gate at its side – presumably on guard (“Embodiment of ‘A'” and “Embodiment of ‘Um'”). Immediately, you know you are in a land that you have never been to before.


Viewers can then walk through the temple to enter the larger exhibition space, first coming face-to-face with the title piece of the show, “In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of the Rainbow”. This sprawling mural spans the entire width of the gallery wall with a visual narrative that flows horizontally in the tradition of a scroll painting. At its center and seen prominently from the gate’s entrance are a collection of human skulls. This particular painting was inspired by an 18th century painting by Soga Shohaku, titled “Immortals”.


The installation also features two other panorama murals, each both complex and disarming. In a smaller gallery room is a silver sculpture interpretive of the artist himself, a rendition of a piece common to Murakami’s collections of works. Also of note are two shimmering gold totem sculptures in the image of welcoming demons, and discs of smiling flowers, which too find their rightful place among this “Land of the Dead”. Altogether the show is a vibrant blend of both of ancient and modern inspiration, forming something quite removed from and more compelling than both.


And since you are familiar with Murakami’s work, it would not surprise you to also find, during the opening reception for his latest exhibition, the artist crowded by a horde of people wearing a helmet of flesh-like material: a triple head with three sets of eyes. In the world that Murakami seeks to portray this too is fitting. Of this world, Murakami says: “chaos is natural, but we have to make sense of it somehow.”


Takashi Murakami: In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of the Rainbow is on view at Gagosian Gallery, 24th Street, New York, Nov 10, 2014 – Jan 17, 2015

Sebastian Errazuriz

The Chilean Artist Blurring the Lines Between Art and Design


Sebastian Errazuriz opened the doors of his massive Brooklyn studio and walked me through each and every piece inside of it. Generous with his time, eloquent, funny, charming and direct, this Chilean-born artist and designer is one of the most interesting movers and shakers in the contemporary art and design world.


Sebastian is leaving an indelible mark with his unexpected creations and giving the finger to those who think that art belongs to one place and that design is compartmentalized in a whole different area. Perhaps his way of thinking – and of creating objects, furniture and yes, art – sound so familiar to me because I’m not only a designer but also an art advisor. I do both and combine them to maximize the benefits of each – and nobody can tell me that I cannot do it my way.


This year Sebastian’s work was chosen for his first retrospective exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, which will run until January 2015. The show has garnered critical acclaim, and Sebastian, who is only 37, has many more ambitious plans for the future. This is just the beginning.


Maria Brito: I like that you don’t let anybody dictate what to do or how to do it, and I also like that you have a style that is not easily identifiable. The art and design world are always expecting to pigeonhole artists and designers in one style, so that the “branding” process can kick in and then the selling process becomes easier. However, your immense talent somehow pours out of all your pieces and people are drawn to that: the innovation, the quality, the thinking outside the box.


Sebastian Errazuriz: Yes, I don’t want people to dictate how or what comes out of this studio. I don’t like being labeled.  I pay attention to the quality. Ultimately, people like it and I love that people know that I make things that seduce, that keep people interested. In this society where everything is overly exposed and everyone shows everything on social media, it’s super important to be extremely creative.  I don’t want to bore myself or bore people and that to me is much more valuable than having a definitive style.


MB: I’m always drawn to what you do and your pieces no matter where they are: I may stumble upon one of them at Art Basel Miami Beach or Design Miami or in the house of a collector, and I still need to go and see up close who made the object – and then I know it’s yours.  For example, this past December, I loved so much that you had all those cabinets exhibited next to each other at Design Miami and one of them said “Of Course it’s Art, You Fool”.


SE: (Laughs)  The lines are totally blurred nowadays and Design Miami is the sister fair of Art Basel and it’s not supposed to show any “art” in the strict sense of what “art” means. However, these cabinets are art, of course they are, but they are objects because they are pieces that are functional, their doors open and you can store things inside.  In a way, I’m making fun of the whole thing, because who determines what’s art and what’s design?


MB: I want to live with your pieces and I show them to my clients, too, and recommend your work to them. I believe you make objects and put words on your work that people can’t say themselves.  It makes everything so much cooler.  Like that massive “Blow Me” piece that you did for the Collective Design Fair opening edition of 2012.


SE: Yes, I have rebelled against some things in my own life, like the super-strict and closed Chilean society. We are Latin, and there is still so much classicism, racism and things like that, which really don’t make us look too advanced. That behavior is not very positive and/or aligned with our times. And that is why I think also that my pieces are appealing. I only create things that I have designed and looked at over and over again a million times, because they come from me and my life and my experiences – but also, if I’m completely in love with them, someone else will be too.  That giant wall with drawings is where I keep images of all my designs and I look at them many, many times until I choose one that will become an actual piece.


MB: You are so prolific; I love the shoe collection you did for Melissa.


SE: I was so honored to be a part of that.  Last year Melissa only worked with Karl Lagerfeld, Jason Wu and me.  I designed each shoe based on a experience that I had with different girlfriends (or lovers) that I’ve had. We released the collection during Art Basel Miami Beach last year, but Melissa will actually make the shoes available for sale this year.


MB: I also enjoyed what you did in the beginning of the year at the Storefront for Art and Architecture.


SE: Yes, it opened on Valentine’s Day and we called it “Tough Love”.  It analyzes current issues that deal with justice, the courts, and the legal system.  It also has to do with the role that cultural institutions play nowadays in response to those issues. That show was about creating awareness through art about all of these massive shootings that are so tragic and then seem to be forgotten.  Or about other situations, like missing children who are never found, or who are found when it is too late and nobody seems to be responsible for anything. There were pieces that I designed that deal with citizenship and illegal immigrants.  That show was about many problems that we are facing in current times.


MB: The retrospective at the Carnegie Museum of Art is a big deal.


SE: Yes, and I’m so happy that it went exactly the way I envisioned. I’m grateful for that and look forward to the future with great enthusiasm and optimism. It’s been an amazing year.



Four Iconic Artists Come together for the Brant Foundation's Latest Show

5 Images
Open The Gallery
5 Images
Open The Gallery
5 Images
Open The Gallery

Twice yearly the who’s who of the New York art world, coupled with the odd art-enthused celebrity,  make the pilgrimage to The Brant Foundation – Peter Brant’s art compound in Greenwich, Connecticut. The Foundation’s most recent show, curated by Brant (a self proclaimed art advocate and collector) is entitled Deliverance, featuring four of NY’s most bankable artists – Larry Clark, Christopher Wool, Richard Prince and Cady Noland. With Prince’s Cowboys, Noland’s riffs on media culture, Wool’s apathetic mantras and Clark’s portrayal of youth culture, Deliverance is an ode to America through blue-chip contemporary art.


With its focus on work from the mid 70s through the 90s, notions of political, economical and social unrest permeate the show. We find pivotal moments of change in America in Noland’s “Oozewald” (1989) or Clark’s “Teenage Lust” (1995). These artists tackle their subjects head on, with insight, humor and candor. Wool’s text paintings provide the narration: Fuckem if they can’t take a joke.


Through an expansive selection of photography, painting, sculpture, film, and mixed-media installations, Deliverance explores the work of an iconic group of New York artists who emerged during a distinct moment in American history – one marked by a growing skepticism of political and economic systems as well as a “crisis of confidence” that wounded the American spirit. Drawing upon artistic explorations of mass media popularized in the 1960s and 1970s, Clark, Noland, Prince and Wool developed incisive artistic vernaculars that exposed the underbelly of American culture. Their works engage with themes of sexuality, power, censorship, authenticity and the influence of mass media with unmatched candor and continue to influence artistic practice and dialogues worldwide.


Prince, Clark and Wool toured the opening together – much to the delight of the scene photographers stationed on the lawn. Unsurprisingly, the famously reclusive Noland was MIA, but her presence was felt through a strategically placed disclaimer (a security guard stood directly in front of it on the day of the opening), stating that Noland “hasn’t given her approval or blessing to this show.” Every attempt to Instagram the disclaimer, which quickly became a hot topic at the opening, was thwarted.


After a few glasses of bubbles under the big white tent, the focus invariably shifts from the art on view to gossip and gawking. Chloe Sevigny and Leo Fitzpatrick, who can also be spotted onscreen in the exhibit in the Clark’s twisted classic Kids, turned up to support the artists. Stephanie Seymour, who has been married to Brant for almost 20 years, and her fashion-forward boys Peter, Jr and Harry Brant, were there to support the patriarch. Artists such as Dan Colen, whose retrospective opened at the foundation last summer, Nate Lowman, Rob Pruitt and Daniel Arsham were also in attendance, along with gallerists Gavin Brown and Jeffrey Deitch.


As the sun set over Brant’s vast estate, guests walked past the over-sized, flowered Koons terrier as they collected their cars and started on their hour-long journey back to the city. Some of the cheekier guests, like artist Korakrit Arunanondchai, swiped bouquets off the tables – and many stopped to take a quick iPhone snap of the pastel sky (after all, there was no photography allowed in the exhibit). And so we put another Brant opening on the logbooks and patiently wait for summer.