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 of all?
            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 1989.
            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 Art community.
            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 sold out.
            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.