5 Star Art Shows You Must See This Weekend

Courtesy of John Waters and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York  © John Waters

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Takashi Murakami at Gagosian Gallery, 555 West 24th Street, NYC
Murakami’s In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, has been open since November (and closing January 17,) but Saturday, January 10 marks the artist’s first #InstaMeet — get there at 12:30 to take an #ArtSelfie with Murakami himself. #InstaGold
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@takashipom on Instagram

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Helmut Lang at Sperone Westwater, 257 Bowery, NYC
Since annihilating his fashion archives 10 years ago, the reclusive designer turned artist has been working on sculptures made up of pulped fragments of collections past. This exhibition of sculptures is Lang’s first solo show in New York. Open through February 21.
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Courtesy of Sperone Westwater

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Henri Matisse at MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street, NYC
Visit MoMA this weekend to see Matisse’s famous cut-outs. The show was extended due to popular demand, so get there before February 10 to avoid closing week crowds.
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@themuseumofmodernart on Instagram

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John Waters at Marianne Boesky, 509 West 24th Street, NYC
Running through Valentine’s Day, this third solo show of John Waters at Marianne Boesky is titled, Beverly Hills John. The exhibition includes photoshop facelifts for Justin Bieber, Lassie, and Waters himself. Make sure you see “Kiddie Flamingos,” a G-rated version of the very X-rated “Pink Flamingos”.
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Beverly Hills John, 2012, C-print, Image: 30 x 20 inches  76.2 x 50.8 cm, Framed: 36 1/2 x 26 1/2 inches, 92.7 x 67.3 cm, Edition of 5; Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York  © John Waters

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Louise Bourgeois at Cheim & Read, 547 West 25th Street, NYC
Hurry up before it closes on January 10 to catch Louise Bourgeois’ Suspension. What secrets is the founder of confessional art telling now?
photograph taken by Brian Buckley for Cheim & Read, New York
Courtesy of Cheim & Read

Takashi Murakami’s ‘Jellyfish Eyes’ Screens in Los Angeles and NYC

Takashi Murakami will present his debut feature-film “Jellyfish Eyes” at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles tonight before heading to the Film Society of Lincoln Center on June 1st.  The New York screening will be followed by a free talk with the celebrated Japanese pop artist.

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A champion of bridging high and low, Murakami has gained worldwide renown for his vivid designs that incorporate elements of anime and manga. Outside the contemporary art world, his collaborations with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Louis Vuitton have made Murakami a household name.

Set in the Japanese countryside, “Jellyfish Eyes” combines live-action adventure with computer-generated animation. Watch the preview below.

Stills from the film via 

Today’s Google Doodle Celebrates Summer & Promotes Takashi Murakami

Today is the beginning of the summer solstice, and Google is marking the occasion with a Google Doodle by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. It’s called “The First Day of Summer” and it’s oh-so-adorable, as Murakami is wont to be. Also, as noted by ArtInfo, it “could hardly be more self-promotional.”

The two charming little characters in the Doodle are KaiKai and Kiki, otherwise known as the mascots of Murakami’s production company, KaiKai Kiki. They’re available as stuffed animals, on posters, as figurines, and so on. KaiKai is the white one with the big ears, and Kiki is the pink one with fangs. They “represent the artist’s spiritual guardians.” They’re kind of like Keith Haring’s “radiant child” or Jean-Michel Basquiat’s crown.

It’s really a neat trick by Murakami, getting his most salable items onto the home page of Google! He has a knack for commercializing his artwork, another parallel with Haring. Remember the collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton? Even the art movement that he founded, the “superflat” painting style, was a clever bit of niche marketing: “Superflat (the two words of the Japanese catalogue became one Google-friendly neologism on arrival in America) was a branded art phenomenon designed primarily for Western audiences and markets at a time when the Japanese contemporary art market had been decimated by the bursting of the economic bubble,” posits this 2004 piece of criticism in ArtForum. So, nothing new here; Murakami has always been a savvy commercial artist.

I suppose it’s tempting to sniff, as ArtInfo does, at the thought that Murakami would use his Google Doodle to try and sell stuff, the idea being that artists who are also good businesspeople is still shocking in 2011. This is an example of an artist taking advantage of a unique opportunity to reach every person who uses Google, i.e. basically everyone who uses the Internet. Pretty shrewd.

Stealing Murakami: The Plot Gets Still Thickerer

This was supposed to be a happy story, simple and just. Ring gets stolen. Ring gets recovered. Thief gets nabbed. Natural order is restored. Since the ring happened to be a rare, one-of-a-kind artwork from Takeshi Murakami, and that the theft happened during Art Basel, made it a story well worth telling. That the recovery took place in a pawn shop some two years later, just days before the ring was to be scrapped, and was only made possible by the keen eye of a certain David Tamargo, gave it a serendipitous slant — not to mention a storybook ending. Then the tale took turns no one could have envisioned.

First was the unequivocal “No Comment” from Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki studio, when by rights they should’ve been thanking their lucky stars the $72,500 ring was recovered. Then, as I reported Monday, it became clear that the bejeweled piece apparently wasn’t stolen from The Florida Room after all, but from the site of Basel satellite Design Miami, and rumor has it someone was paid a large chunk of change to keep mum. Worse, when Tamargo popped into Kaikai Kiki over Armory week in New York, he not only wasn’t thanked for what he’d so nobly done, but he was summarily booted from the studio.

Now I’ve learned that Kaikai Kiki has elected not to press charges, despite the due diligence of pawn shop owner Angel Parets and Miami Beach Police Department Detective Pete Rodriguez, who had a suspect in custody within 48 hours of the ring’s discovery. One would’ve thunk that Kaikai Kiki would be only to eager to prosecute; teach those crooks a hard lesson.

But don’t think for a moment that this case is closed. As the good Detective wrote last week when I asked for a copy of the original police report:

“The case is not closed as of yet due to my search for the actual thief of the ring has not concluded. The person who pawned the ring purchased or obtained the ring from another person. I am still looking for that person. I will advise you when the person is located.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were the culprit and I saw that a dogged detective was dogging me, I’d be a little nervous. Granted, Kaikai Kiki’s inexplicable move leaves the cops without much leverage and makes the case more difficult to pursue. Yet that hasn’t seemed to have deterred Detective Rodriguez. Nor has it deterred me. If anything it only makes me even more curious about Kaikai Kiki’s actions — and of their motive.

Frankly I couldn’t care less whether Kaikai Kiki filed a false police report (if indeed they did) or even if they’d paid off someone to keep it on the QT (if indeed they did that too). I’m no goody two-shoes; far from it. And I’m a firm believer in letting folks do what they’ve gotta do. But when what they do impacts a pal of mine, well, then I get cranky, and I get curious, and then I get to work. Had Kaikai Kiki simply said “Thank You” to the man who saved the ring from oblivion, I’d have left it at that. Had they gone on and offered Tamargo a reward, I’d have sung their praises from here to proverbial eternity. I mean, Tamargo went well out of his way to behave righteously. And all he got for his trouble was the pointed heel of a very obtuse boot. Why so kooky, Kaikai Kiki?

Stealing Murakami: The Plot Thickens

Even before I broke the story last Wednesday, the plot revolving around the recovery of the stolen Takashi Murakami Doruku ring was getting thicker and thicker. First there was the unequivocal “No Comment” from the New York offices of Kaikai Kiki, the Japanese artist’s studio, when by any rights they should have at least expressed some joy over the piece being found.

Then there was the fact that Joshua Wagner, the GM of The Delano Hotel’s Florida Room, had never even heard the ring had been swiped from the club he runs, though that of course was what Kaikai Kiki claimed on the police report. Then, when Urban Hunter David Tamargo popped into Kaikai Kiki for a visit, they kicked him out, which isn’t how one would’ve expect the folks to treat the very man who saved their jewelry/art piece from being scrapped in the first place. Would a simple “Thank You” have been too much to ask? Apparently so.

Then, after the story broke, the plot got thicker still. It now seems the ring wasn’t stolen from The Florida Room after all, but from Kaikai Kiki’s booth at Design Miami. Furthermore, a certain “publicist” is rumored to have not only hushed up the theft, but he also reportedly (we’re still trying to confirm) took a rather large chunk of change to do so. Of course Kaikai Kiki isn’t talking. At the time of this writing the media reps of record haven’t replied to my query either. So if it turns out I’m casting unwarranted aspersions, I’ll apologize. I mean, I dig Murakami as much as the next cat. And I feel likewise about Design Miami. But if that part of the story is indeed true, it not only adds a rather sordid element to things, but it also begs the question: “Why?”

More importantly, why not reward Tamargo for the recovery? After all, it’s not every day that someone stumbles upon a stolen something worth $72,500 and then has the good character to notify the rightful owners. Instead, he gets summarily booted from the studio without so much as a fare-thee-well?

Of all the folks in Miami, Tamargo is perhaps the most uniquely suited to the discovery. Not only is his place of employ (The World Erotic Art Museum) upstairs from the very pawn shop where the ring was found, but he’s exhibited in several museums and galleries, both nationally and internationally, that have featured Murakami’s work. In addition, his girlfriend Lindsay Scoggins was part of the Guggenheim Museum’s Youtube Play Biennial last fall in which Murakami was a judge, and she will curate a show at the Royal/T Gallery in Culver City, California featuring Murakami artwork slated to open June 2011.

Add it up and it makes him very familiar with the artist’s work — and with the high prices the artworks fetch. Had he been a different kind of cat, he could easily have bought the ring, flipped it and reaped some great reward. Since Kaikai Kiki can’t even be bothered to thank the good man, maybe that’s just what he should’ve done.

Takashi Murakami Ring Recovered in South Beach Pawn Shop

Last month, a one-of-a-kind Doruko (“skull”) ring created by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami was serendipitously recovered from Costa de Oro, a South Beach pawn shop just steps away from the Miami Beach Police Department’s Washington Avenue headquarters. The platinum and diamond artwork, which features Murakami’s iconic smiling daisies, had reportedly been stolen from the Delano Hotel’s Florida Room back in December 2008, after the conclusion of the Art Basel satellite fair, Design Miami.

It was spotted in the shop’s window by David Tamargo, the art director at the World Erotic Art Museum, and an upstairs neighbor to Costa de Oro. Tamargo, an artist in his own right, whose Urban Hunting has been featured here in BlackBook, stumbled upon the infamous ring purely by accident. He was surprised as anyone else to see it in a pawn shop window.

“First, I did a double take,” he told us. “Then I got closer to the window for a better look. Immediately I knew it was a Murakami. What I couldn’t imagine was why it was there. I mean, he’s one of the most famous artists on the planet!”

Murakami’s works are indeed collected by some of the world’s most recognizable names and generally sell for well into the six figures. Last month, at Christie’s auction house in London, a 2004 painting by the artist entitled “Skulls Rock” sold for 493,250 pounds (approximately $796, 651). According to police reports, the Dokuro ring’s value was estimated at $72,500. But neither Tamargo nor Costa de Oro’s Angel Parets knew that at the time.

“The shop owner told me he wanted $6000 for the ring,” continued Tamargo. “$6000! I couldn’t believe it! It was then that I knew something was wrong. So I immediately went upstairs and called Murakami’s New York office to tell them what I’d found.”

Unfortunately it was President’s Day, and the person who answered the telephone at Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki studio told Tamargo no one was in. So he left a message with his contact information and a word about his discovery. A few days later, Tamargo learned that the ring was about to be shipped to a Tokyo jewelry expo, to be either sold or scrapped, so he tried again, this time with some urgency.

“There was no way I was going to let this ring out of the country,” said Tamargo. “When no one from Murakami’s camp got in touch after the second call, I went to the bank and withdrew enough to buy it myself. By the time I got to the pawn shop I heard a Miami Beach detective had been by the museum to see me. That’s when I got the full story.”

That detective was 23-year veteran Pete Rodriguez, who handles pawn shops on Miami Beach. After Tamargo’s calls, Kaikai Kiki had contacted him regarding the theft. The detective wanted know how Tamargo had found something that was stolen over two years ago. image

“The people at Kaikai Kiki were understandably suspicious,” said Detective Rodriguez. “I think they’d long written off the loss. So when David phoned claiming to know the whereabouts of the ring, they called me.”

Together, Tamargo and Rodriguez went to Costa de Oro, where owner Angel Parets not only put the ring on hold, but provided Rodriguez with the name, address and photo of the man who’d pawned it. A suspect was in custody within 48 hours.

“If you sell stolen goods to Costa de Oro,” said Parets, “you not only will be prosecuted; you will be convicted.”

While the fate of the suspect in the Murakami theft is still in question, Parets does mention that since Rodriguez came on to the detail in January of 2010 there’s been a “one hundred percent conviction rate.” Considering the way pawn shop owners are often portrayed or considered, it is an achievement Parets is understandably proud to share. The 33-year veteran of the trade is equally proud of his relationship with the Miami Beach Police Department, specifically Detective Rodriquez, who he considers “exemplary” and “outstanding.”

“Without a good relationship,” says Parets, “there’s no retrieval, no returns and no conviction. Since Pete has come on board we’ve worked closely together. And between our documentation and his resources and talents, we’re able to favorably resolve any questionable transaction.”

The detective, in turn, is equally effusive about Parets, who he credits with due diligence and eager assistance. Rodriguez also says Parets is “an upstanding citizen” and “a pretty nice guy.”

Tamargo also received Rodriquez’s thanks, as well as some credit for his “vital role” in the ring’s recovery. As the detective would come to learn from Parets, had Tamargo not stumbled upon the ring, it’s likely no one would’ve ever seen it again.

“I didn’t know Takashi Murakami,” said Parets, who still sounded surprised by the whole ordeal. “I was going to sell it for scrap. That David happened to see the ring before I could was a one-in-a-million shot. One-in-a-million. I’m glad he did though.”

We can only assume Kaikai Kiki, who had “no comment” for the story, are happy with the results. Photo Credit: Robert Harbour

Was Kirsten Dunst’s “Turning Japanese” the Catalyst for the Pastel Hair Trend?

Not long ago I was admiring Kirsten Dunst’s new bleach job, positive that the Antionette would be the next to follow Proenza Schouler’s surf-punk beauties and dip her tips into a pot of pastel blue, or streak her white-blond locks with bit of mint green. Little did I know she was the one who started the trend long before the catwalks teemed with color-threaded tow-heads. Last August Kiki bopped around with bright blue hair and a pastel sailor getup in a wack-a-doo Takashi Murakami video, directed by McG for the London-based art show Pop Life: Art in a Material World. The video, which has Dunst singing a Vapors cover of “Turning Japanese,” surfaced last month, just in time for blondies like Pixie Geldoff and Ashley Olsen to techni-color their hair, but was promptly pulled from every website known to the internet. Now it’s back up, just in case you needed one more reason to dye your hair cotton-candy blue. Video and other Easter-time dye jobs after the jump.

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Becka Diamond, Ashley Olsen and Pixie Geldof’s Pastel Hair image (Who What Wear)

Fashionista’s Ode to Pastel Brows image

Cut-Out Couture Courtesy Murakami & Friends

imageOnce upon a time, namely 1966, the Scott Paper Company fashioned a paper dress in order to promote paper tissues; in this fabled time, the June Cleavers among you could, for the modest price of $1.25, obtain a “Paper Caper” dress and coupons to buy various paper products from the company. This sartorial versatility must’ve done wonders for public restroom queues. But those were greener times. Supply was greater than demand, and resources seemed inexhaustible, so copycat companies marketed their own products similarly and no one thought twice about such wastefulness.

Of course, yesterday’s extravagant banalities are today’s treasures. Creative forces like Takashi Murakami and Sophia Kokosalaki are among those who have woven a modern, eye-catching spin onto these novelty garments for a project conceived by the Greek-based cultural outfit ATOPOS. The traveling exhibition finishes its tour through a couple of Benelux museums next August, when it arrives at London’s Design Museum.

Kanye West Replaces Murakami with KAWS

If you frequent Kanye West’s blog, which I can proudly and defiantly say I do, you’ll know that he’s perched on the cutting edge of everything design-oriented. Houses, skirts, cars, bookshelves, commercials — you name it, if it’s at all forward-thinking, then Kanye’s got a handle on it. The guy knows art and design, and to prove it once more, has commissioned Brooklyn artist and toy designer KAWS to decorate his new record 808’s and Heartbreak. This comes after West introduced many Westerners to pop artist extraordinaire Takashi Murakami with the artwork from his previous album.

The new disc already has official cover art, the deflated balloon-heart seen plastered on plywood everywhere, and this alternate cover, which unmistakably belongs to KAWS. But now West has announced that KAWS will be doing extra art for the iTunes version of the disc, plus special Christmas packaging. The new art is previewed on his blog.