Collector Adam Lindemann has an article examining the choice of showing contemporary art in non-contemporary settings in the New York Observer. He takes as his text the two shows at Versailles, one of Jeff Koons’ work and one of Takashi Murakami’s. The runaway bidding on Murakami’s Kaikai kiki at the Frieze week sales has been chalked up to interest generated at Versailles. But Lindemann sees it differently:
When Mr. Murakami really broke out on the international art scene after the Fondation Cartier show in 2002, I was one of his biggest fans in the world. I followed him all over, buying up every painting that I could. What other artist had ever crossed over from Japan and crashed the insular Western art world? Though he was dismissed as cartoonish for years, eventually the world caught on that his visions were actually apocalyptic post-Hiroshima fantasies, and that his Shinto-derived nationalism was actually a subtle critique of Western culture and Western art values.
None of this was brought to Versailles, unfortunately; the Murakami who showed up was an artist who had hundreds of studio assistants in several studios spread out from L.A. to Tokyo, and all the expenses and animation projects appeared to be a major monkey on his back. In the entire show, only two good sculptures stood out: the monumental Mr Pointy in the Hercules salon, and the huge Golden Oval Buddha in the garden. All the other stuff just looked stale and worse, against the beautiful backdrop of the palace.
I got a bit of an explanation from the press release. Of the 22 works in the show, 11 were “specially commissioned” pieces. I suppose this is the new euphemism for “available for sale,” and that’s what really bothered me. Mr. Murakami was given the wonderful opportunity to show some of his masterpieces in this fantastic dream setting of Versailles, but instead he chose to install new and shiny works and use the place as a fancy showroom. What a poor and shortsighted decision, just at the time that his market is in a lull. This was the perfect time to give collectors new enthusiasm and energy, but instead he showed us mediocre and unoriginal modest-size sculptures that are packed, crated, gilded and ready to ship.
Lindemann is right at the Murakami’s market was in a lull. It remains to be seen if the recent sale is an anomaly or the beginning of another leg up.
All Mixed Up (NY Observer)