"The Artist’s Fall Collection" in today's New York Times is filled with so many head scratchers (more so than the usual NYT fawning over the relations between art, fashion, and celebrity) that the thought of tackling them all is daunting. The article discusses Takashi Murakami's show at LA MOCA. We'll just hit the few things that really jumped out and leave the rest of the inanity for others to dissect.
The show, with its $960 handbags and $695 agendas for sale, created a flap even before its opening on Oct. 29. Art-world purists charge that it has eroded the line between culture and commerce. “It has turned the museum into a sort of upscale Macy’s,” the art critic Dave Hickey chided in an interview.
You have to wonder about Hickey's point of reference for luxury shopping. Macy's? The real zinger here is that unnamed "purists" actually believe there is some "line between culture and commerce." Maybe these are the same people that think the earth is flat?
Mr. Schimmel further maintained that the boutique is integral to the artist’s message. “One of the most radical aspects of Murakami’s work is his willingness both to embrace and exploit the idea of his brand, to mingle his identity with a corporate identity and play with that,” he said. “He realized from the beginning that if you don’t address the commercial aspect of the work, it’s somehow like the elephant in the room.
Such arguments have done their part to defuse potential controversy. The museum, said Gail Andrews, director of the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama and president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, “has made the case that luxury goods are a part of Murakami’s artistic expression. They are doing what contemporary museums do, pushing the boundaries.”
Apparently Paul Schimmel is now admitting that most art museum exhibitions have an "elephant in the room?" There's no plausible way he could think that the specter of financial value, the "elephant," is only germane to Murakami. Or could he? And pushing the boundaries? Art IS a luxury good...at least most of it that the NY Times bothers to write about and that museums exhibit. How could an entire article be predicated on some alleged separation? Maybe it hinges on the explicit claims of each domain?
“If you look at the world of art people interested in contemporary art, they are usually interested in luxury,” said Yves Carcelle, the president of Louis Vuitton. “The bridge between the two worlds is more and more obvious.” Mr. Carcelle underscored the point by noting that 60 of the MOCA Murakami bags were sold in the show’s first week alone.
Again we see this notion of a "bridge" between luxury and art. Isn't (market) art even more of a luxury good than a handbag which has a utilitarian dimension?
Such products, a kind of art couture, appeal primarily to a rising class of affluent culture chasers, “people who are very focused on having those hip luxury signifiers,” in the words of Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barneys New York. Owning such products “signifies informed consumption,” Mr. Doonan said. “They say: ‘I’m not just a shopper. I’m a super groovy shopper.’”
"Hip luxury signifiers" - could there be a better descriptor of mainstream market art? I'm not just a collector, I'm a super groovy collector!
[Yeah, yeah. This post is hyperbolic. A cooling off period might have served it better, but damn that article was amazing!]