Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Artist Takashi Murakami’s in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade… is that weird?
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Artist Takashi Murakami’s in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade… is that weird?

Takashi Murakami

It was a surreal moment, when I looked up at the TV this morning and saw Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieria nattering on about Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, and how cute his artwork is. The camera switched to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade  (yeah, it was on — what’s it to ya?) and there was Murakami, bundled up in a fluffy costume that he must have created, designed to look like some indeterminate animal/plant hybrid species. He was bopping up and down and grinning like a mad-man, loving every moment of his nationwide exposure.

I did a double take, because Murakami’s pop art can be very cute, but he also makes art that is very sexual and fetishistic. He makes life-sized figures of manga-like characters in sexual poses. And, he’s created striking, powerful paintings and sculptures that depict the atomic bomb mushroom cloud — it’s a recurring motif in his work.

He also sells custom-designed Louis Vuitton bags and scarves (care to spend $5,000 for a handbag?), as well as much cheaper (though not exactly pocket change) cool figurines of his comic characters, including Kaikai and Kiki, the two mutant critters floating above Broadway this morning. He’s no dummy; he opened a Kaikai Kiki gallery to exhibit his work as well as fellow J-pop artists, and he knows the Macy’s Parade is nothing if not a huge marketing opportunity.

Erin and I saw a major exhibition of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, and were awestruck by Murakami’s talent, fun quotient, dark side AND his utter capitalistic entrepreneurialism (he set up counters in the museum to sell the luxury goods). We thought he was brilliant. But not the kind of thing we’d expect to see at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

So, good for Murakami, for pushing his own brand beyond his usual hipster market and sneaking one past the mainstream censors who might be aghast had they seen the entire scope of his work.

Whether Lauer and Vieria knew it or not, they were witnesses to a moment of true coolness.

Here’s how cool:


(cross-posted from