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Boutique Freak: Marketing Murakami Vuittons in Brooklyn

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Catalogue for the © MURAKAMI exhibition

When I contacted the always helpful Sally Williams of the Brooklyn Museum’s press office about a month ago, she informed me that no decision had yet been made as to whether Brooklyn’s version of the Murakami show (organized by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, opening Apr. 5 in Brooklyn) would include a boutique for products designed by the artist in collaboration with Louis Vuitton.

Today, this press release hit my inbox:

The Brooklyn Museum announced today the exhibition of a fully operational Louis Vuitton store within and as part of © MURAKAMI….Takashi Murakami states, “The shop project is not a part of the exhibition; rather it is the heart of the exhibition itself. It holds at once the aspects that fuse, reunite, and then recombine the concept of the readymade. The Louis Vuitton project brings to life a wonderful new world.”

Is he putting us on?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Brooklyn has another Saatchi problem on its hands—the problematic involvement, in too many aspects of the show, of a financially self-interested source of objects (Vuitton). The product-hyping language of today’s press release is already disturbing, taking the synergy of art and commerce too far:

Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman comments, “We are delighted that Louis Vuitton will participate in the exhibition. The groundbreaking inclusion of its store within the context of the retrospective has created a new paradigm [calling Eli Broad?] in its exemplification of Takashi Murakami’s artistic process that includes low-cost unlimited-edition consumer products, as well as luxury goods designed for Louis Vuitton.”

….Takashi Murakami gave color and mischief to the Louis Vuitton Monogram by re-creating it in 33 colors on a black or white background. The collaboration between the two creative talents also spawned the Monogram Cherry Blossom line later that year, and the Monogram Cerise pattern in 2005.

“Our collaboration has produced a lot of works, and has been a huge influence and inspiration to many It has been and continues to be a monumental marriage of art & commerce. The ultimate cross-over, one for both the fashion and art history books” comments Marc Jacobs, Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton.

In addition to the operation of the Louis Vuitton store within the exhibition, Louis Vuitton will also generously host the Brooklyn Ball on April 3, 2008. Special creations by Takashi Murakami for Louis Vuitton will be auctioned during the gala dinner.

Proceeds from that Vuitton auction will benefit the Brooklyn Museum. However, revenues from the on site boutique will not benefit the museum. (Likewise, LA MOCA did not benefit from shop sales.)

As it happens, I just went on yet another fact-finding (not shopping) mission last weekend to the land of outlandishly priced plasticized canvas in my nearby mall. Here’s what I discovered this time:

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It’s a Richard Prince “joke bag” for Vuitton, embellished with several examples of his appropriated Borscht Belt humor (although some punch lines are partly obscured by the handles’ purple fasteners).

This can only make us wonder whether a Vuitton boutique may be added to the Guggenheim-organized Richard Prince show that opened Saturday at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. It’s a good thing these ridiculous reticules were not available in time for first version of the show at the Guggenheim.

This is one fashion trend we could all do without.

an ArtsJournal blog