Copyright 2004 Chiho Aoshima /Kaikai Kiki. Co, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
"Takashi Murakami Talks About Tokyo Girls Bravo"
NYArts Magazine Vol. 9. (May/June 2004)
N. 5/6. pg.73.
The first time I saw "My Lonesome Cowboy" by Takashi Murakami I nearly
shit. Here was a sculpture that captured one boy's discovery of pud-pounding with
a guiltless sense of wonder and awe that only the exaggerations of anime could
grasp. I'd never seen anything so powerful in sculpture. Dave Hickey put it in his
top ten in that year's Art Forum ‘Best Of' issue. (Was that 1998?) He compared it to
"The Ecstasy of St. Theresa" by Bernini. I couldn't have agreed more. That lasso of
cum DID take on religious proportions.
Then I found the female counterpart to "Cowboy's" vigor and glee at
Boesky Gallery's old space on Greene St. Was this guy a kid genius, a dirty old
man, an antisocial Anime freak with a serious need to get laid, or a combination
Beyond those pieces and that show, Murakami has continued to impress.
With his ambitious projects at Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station and in
collaboration with Louis Vuitton (those handbags are everywhere!) he has
established himself as an international art star. How does he do it?
His studio KaiKaiKiKi pumps out product after perfect product like a Nissan
plant jacked up on cartoon crystal meth. They are a camp, a community, and a
corporation. One that Murakami likes to give back to.
From "Hiropon Show" to "Gesai" his efforts to help young unseen talent in
Japan are almost as numerous as his own projects. Marianne Boesky Gallery for
the month of February hosted "Tokyo Girls Bravo" A show featuring female
KaiKaiKiKi employees, some of who are artists of prominence in Japan. I was curious
so I thought I'd ask him about it. Here is what he had to say:
Aaron Zimmerman: When did you start working on events that help promote young
artists and why?
Takashi Murakami: I have always worked on many events and projects and also
curated other artists' group exhibitions since starting my career as an artist in
One of the earliest and most successful group exhibitions that I curated
was "HIROPON SHOW" in 1997. It had been launched as a regional touring
exhibition in Japan with themes such as "Reasonable Art", featuring several young
artists including Mr. and Aya Takano who recently presented their work at "Gallery
Swap" (LFL Gallery, N.Y) in February 2004.
Furthermore, since 2002 I have launched an art festival, "GEISAI", inviting
public participation with a view to discover talented young artists and revitalize
the Japanese art market.
It has been held at the Convention Center in Japan biannually, and there
are 500 to 700 groups of artists participating at each event. A lot of young people
have made their debut as professional artists at this event, and now this event
itself has come to earn a reputation as a gateway to success among the Japanese
Supporting one's self as an artist has always been severely problematic in
Japan because of its elusive art scene. It is very hard to focus on one's creative
activities and keep one's motivation in one's daily life, and I have seen a lot of
young talented artists giving up on their creativity too easily. My belief is that it
is important for me to ensure that those young artists who have debuted from my
studio would get the kind of guidance through management that I believe in. This
was why I began artist management.
AZ: How did you pick these particular artists for the show?
TM: For years and years, it had been my dream project to curate a group exhibition
with only female artists participating. In 1999, the first exhibit of the "Tokyo Girls
Bravo" show took place in Tokyo and L.A. Female artists such as Aya Takano,
Chiho Aoshima and Aki Fujimoto were among the participating artists for these
first shows. At this current "Tokyo Girls Bravo" show in N.Y, these artists are
participating and also other young female artists such as Chinatsu Ban, who is
one of the artists belonging to "Kaikai Kiki" (**Takashi Murakami's studio and
company),and Rei Sato, Yumiko Inada and Mahomi Kunikata who made their
debut at "GEISAI". I have discovered those young, fresh talents through curating
exhibitions and organizing "GEISAI ". I believe each one of them has made such
a big debut of their career in NY all together by participating this "Tokyo Girls
Bravo" N.Y show.
AZ: The Press Release describes these women artists as trying to express the
problems of feminine sexuality and identity in Japanese culture. Tell me about
that theme from your perspective.
TM: The societal ideals of women in Japan still remain deeply rooted in society
as being conservative and virtuous. Now Japanese women have to face up to
major conflicts between such traditional values and new values of modern society,
and are living in huge struggle.
How do they project their own self, living their life in all the superficiality,
uproar and vainglory of Tokyo, the most hip of cities on the cutting edge of new
cultural trends? The participating female artists have succeeded in answering
this question through their work in this "Tokyo Girls Bravo" N.Y show, and I believe
that all of the works are very important as a record of vivid reflection of the life style
of Japanese women and Tokyo city as of now.
AZ: Why did you decide to have this show in America? Have you done this is Japan
too? If so what has been the difference in responses between East and West?
TM: I was so sure that the deeply earnest expression of those female artists, which
are triggered by the reality of Tokyo and Japan, would evoke the sympathies of
viewers in N.Y as well. Also I believe that getting much more review and response
in N.Y which is the center of the international art scene should be a great and
meaningful experience for those young artists.
"Tokyo Girls Bravo" shows have been held in Japan as well. In 1999, the
first "Tokyo Girls Bravo" show was held at NADiff (Tokyo) and the second
"Tokyo Girls Bravo" show occurred in 2002.
In Japan, there was a tendency for the works by popular artists with name
value to be sold first. I see rather more direct and straight response to each work
from viewers in America, which is freer from any prejudice or bias. For example,
thinking about how hard it is for her works to be understood in Japan, it was such
a great surprise for us to see that all the works of Mahomi Kunikata have been
With regard to the way of presentation at the exhibition, we take care and
do all kinds of things in detail to accommodate the different national character
in the U.S. We have made minor retouches and subtle changes to the way the
works are exhibited so that those viewers in the U.S can understand the concept
easily and properly.
For more information visit marianneboeskygallery.com.
Special thanks to Marianne Boesky Gallery (especially Jay Sanders who acted as
communications liaison and translation assistant), Takashi Murakami and his
KaiKai Kiki studio (who were kind enough to do this despite an insanely busy
schedule), and all the artists involved in the show.