Gagosian Quarterly

Summer 2018 Issue

In Conversation

future history:murakami and abloh

Following their artistic collaboration in London, Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh, the recently appointed Louis Vuitton menswear designer, spoke with Derek Blasberg about how they met, their admiration for each other, and the power of collaboration to educate and impassion new audiences.

Virgil Abloh and Takashi Murakami. Photo: Fabien Montique

Virgil Abloh and Takashi Murakami. Photo: Fabien Montique

Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg is a writer, fashion editor, and New York Times best-selling author. He has been with Gagosian since 2014, and is currently the executive editor of Gagosian Quarterly.

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Derek Blasberg Takashi and Virgil, when did you two guys first meet?

Takashi Murakami It was about ten years ago and I just remember your shape. You were the biggest guy in Kanye [West]’s group! But you were also kind of quiet.

Virgil Abloh [Laughs] That sounds like me. Kanye was doing an album cover for Graduation and it was one of the first trips I had taken with him as, basically, one of his assistants. We were working on the cover, coming up with ideas on the rollout, and technically we met for the first time then, even though I was sort of in the background trying to make projects come out on time.

DBHow did the idea of this collaboration come to pass?

TMI reached out to Virgil, probably on Instagram. A few years ago I noticed all these K-pop bands—friends of mine—wearing Off-White, and I was like, “What is that?” I then met Virgil in Chicago when I was working on my show [at the Museum of Contemporary Art] there. Soon after, I had the chance to do a panel talk with him at ComplexCon and I saw that he had a good understanding of contemporary art.

DBThat’s where you’re from, right, Virgil?

VAExactly. In 2019 I’ll have a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art from my own career’s worth of work. So I saw on Instagram that they were installing Takashi’s show—we have the same curator, Michael Darling—and I was like, “Hey, can I come by and see what you’re working on?” They walked me through the exhibit, which started me thinking. When you see an artist’s work, you start drawing parallels, and that started a conversation.

DBI remember when Takashi’s show opened, in June of 2017. So that’s when this started happening.

VAExactly. A lot of it is, if you put magnetic creative types in a room, something comes out of it. I think that’s why we have a lot of ideas and not much fear.

DBI know you’ve both collaborated with several brands, artists, designers, and so forth in the past. I guess my question for Takashi, who I see is wearing Vuitton pants, is, “How is collaborating with Virgil similar to and dissimilar from the projects you’ve done in the past?”

TMWhen I was collaborating with Marc Jacobs it was still the early days of email. We were communicating that way, and then people would go on vacation in the summer and we would lose contact for like twenty days. My studio and I were like, “What are we going to do?” We were worried about it. But with Virgil, of course, he’s a very modern, contemporary kind of guy, so he’s using everything from Instagram to WhatsApp for any message he has to communicate and shuffling it to all of the people around him. It took all I had just to keep up with the quota of information. Which was very much fun!

VAThat’s another interesting touch point in our narrative. One of my most impactful fashion purchases of all time was when Marc Jacobs decided to collaborate with Murakami. In Chicago, you know, like me and Kanye, we were in love with rap music, obviously, we love luxurious things, we love art, but we would never go to a museum in an afternoon. We did go, though, to Louis Vuitton, which ironically was only a block away from the Museum of Contemporary Art, and it inspired us to check this guy out. The new collaboration was in the Louis Vuitton store, and I bought a white pouch with the multicolored monogram, which I still haveI can show it to you. It introduced me to Murakami. I first saw his work in the store, so in a way I’m a product.

Future History: Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh

Installation view, Murakami & Abloh: future history, Gagosian, Davies Street, London, February 21–April 7, 2018. Photo: Lucy Dawkins. Artwork ©︎ Virgil Abloh and ©︎ Takashi Murakami

DBI’m sure the Vuitton collaboration was a way lots of new people encountered his work.

VAImagine, when you release stuff, it educates somebody. You don’t even intend to. So that’s an ironic thing: I first interacted with the work through a Louis Vuitton bag.

DBVirgil, I’m going to ask you a similar question: after collaborating with so many other people, including Kanye, how was working with Takashi?

VAMore than anything, what I’ve learned up to this point is that Earth at any given time is populated by a certain number of hypercreatives, people who are on the planet solely to think and drive and output ideas. Like Kanye or Karl Lagerfeld, who exist for that sole reason, Takashi can think and process in a way that is not work. They exist to create, and it’s effortless. I mean, yesterday was the first day we’ve both been tired [laughter].

TMI was happy to see Virgil tiredthen I knew he was human!

DBLet’s talk about the work. How did you decide on the actual artworks that are going to be displayed today?

VAWe let our imagination run. We didn’t think of genres, which I think is the strength of this show. It’s two people who obviously have their own practice, but in our conversation there was no limit. Usually it’s the other way: a fashion designer works with an artist to make a print that makes a garment. But we went limitless: Let’s make serious art objects that represent these same ideas, that don’t mask themselves in ways that have existed before. For me it was like, Let’s make a good sculpture, let’s make large work, let’s make serious paintings, let’s make small things, let’s share DNA and put it on a timeline of 2018 contemporary art, and let’s see what happens.

DBThat’s a good way to put it: Let’s share the DNA of the art.

VAWe’ve seen fashion evolve because it looks and feels different. I went to Balenciaga yesterday and there was a line outside. That means, culturally, there’s something exciting happening. It’s been the same name on the store since Cristóbal Balenciaga was alive, half a century ago. That’s exciting to me. There’s a way to design clothing that makes it more intriguing.

Future History: Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh

Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh, Glance past the future, 2018, acrylic on canvas mounted on aluminum frame, 55 ½ × 47 ¼ inches (141 × 120 cm) © Virgil Abloh and © Takashi Murakami

DBIt’s London Fashion Week and I’ve been to a bunch of fashion shows, but the feeling is that people are more excited about an interesting collaboration and an art exhibit than just another show. Why do you think these sorts of collaboration are more important or more influential now than a traditional runway show?

VAEverything that brought us to the industry we understand. You constantly have to reexcite your audience, you know? If they believe in you, they believe in you, but now it’s like, “Show me something new.” So you have to challenge yourself to progress to make something new. And collaboration is a modern way of working. If you look behind every one of Takashi’s paintings, the name of every person who contributed to it is written on the back. I’m the same way—it’s my studio, my team, it’s like this is an opportunity for a collective. I think our work is, “Hey, we collaborate!” Because we collaborate behind the scenes every day. It’s not like the designer stitches everything and packs it in a box and drops it off at FedEx and keeps the receipt. Takashi’s making art in the same way.

DBTakashi, I think a lot of contemporary artists have been fearful of playing with fashion, of entering a world of expression not considered traditional art. You’ve never been afraid of that. Why do you think you’ve been so fearless with the way you create?

TMI’m an outsider, I’m Japanese, I don’t feel obliged to play by the rules. Which isn’t to say I don’t know them. When I see Western contemporary artists who are considered very serious, I can be jealous, because they don’t have to explain their art.

The other reason I’m happy to play in other mediums is the reason in Virgil’s story about Louis Vuitton. There’s an audience in art, but in fashion there’s another set of eyes. They found my collaboration and looked up what else I was creating.

Future History: Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh

Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh, TIMES NATURE, 2018, acrylic on canvas mounted on board, 59 ⅛  × 59 ⅛  × 2 inches (150 × 150 × 5 cm) © Virgil Abloh and ©︎ Takashi Murakami

Future History: Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh

Installation view, Murakami & Abloh: future history, Gagosian, Davies Street, London, February 21–April 7, 2018. Photo: Lucy Dawkins. Artwork ©︎ Virgil Abloh and ©︎ Takashi Murakami

DBYou once told me you have Instagram to thank for this collaboration.

TMIt’s true!

VAIt’s like a high school reunion for everyone!

DBHow do you anticipate that the creations you two have done together will integrate themselves into the art world?

TMThat’s a very good question. We have great supporters in young kids. Young kids, like sneaker heads, they’ve already bought something from him and something from me, maybe a toy or a gadget. At the same time, they’re interested to see how this comes into contemporary art. These guys have fast desires. They want to buy something and keep it in their collection.

VAThere’s obviously an evolution of education. It all starts with what you know, right? If you know that’s a Royer couch you’re sitting on, all of a sudden you’re comparing Royer to Restoration Hardware. In a large sense, the biggest education device in art is fashion—fashionable things. Style. Now that sort of epiphany, it’s one of those blurry lines that lends a space for people to create. I think we both see this huge explosion on a highway that no one’s playing in. Everyone’s still in the same lane. The kids standing at Supreme, or wearing the latest fashion trend: imagine how much they’ve invested in their apartment, or specifically how much they’ve spent in their closet, cost per square inch. They could probably afford this painting!

My thought was, “It doesn’t matter what sells. What matters is that it exists.” Once you’re awake in that space, in that fever for the latest trend of shoes or sneakers, once someone makes something for a wall, or for the rest of your environment, that will enlighten your lifestyle. That’s how the right couch can make your whole existence. You can literally only wear so many clothes at one time. That’s where I think it’s inspiring to me: the kids that are in our legions, in our communities, are going to see something in a different medium than typically expected.

Murakami & Abloh: future history, Gagosian, Davies Street, London, February 21–April 7, 2018

A Takashi Murakami painting of a female avatar with blue and pink hair: CLONE X #59 Harajuku-style Angel

Takashi Murakami and RTFKT: An Arrow through History

Bridging the digital and the physical realms, the three-part presentation of paintings and sculptures that make up Takashi Murakami: An Arrow through History at Gagosian, New York, builds on the ongoing collaboration between the artist and RTFKT Studios. Here, Murakami and the RTFKT team explain the collaborative process, the necessity of cognitive revolution, the metaverse, and the future of art to the Quarterly’s Wyatt Allgeier.

Takashi Murakami cover and Andreas Gursky cover for Gagosian Quarterly, Summer 2022 magazine

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2022

The Summer 2022 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, with two different covers—featuring Takashi Murakami’s 108 Bonnō MURAKAMI.FLOWERS (2022) and Andreas Gursky’s V & R II (2022).

Takashi Murakami with works from his ceramics collection.

Murakami on Ceramics

Takashi Murakami writes about his commitment to the work of Japanese ceramic artists associated with the seikatsu kōgei, or lifestyle crafts, movement.

Takashi Murakami with his dog, Pom, Full Steam Ahead, Dark Matter in the Farthest Black Reaches of Visible Space, and Blue Flowers & Skulls (all 2012), Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., studio, Saitama, Japan, 2012

In Conversation
Takashi Murakami and Hans Ulrich Obrist

Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews the artist on the occasion of his 2012 exhibition Takashi Murakami: Flowers & Skulls at Gagosian, Hong Kong.

Takashi Murakami at LACMA

Takashi Murakami at LACMA

In a conversation recorded at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Takashi Murakami describes the process behind three major large-scale paintings, including Qinghua (2019), inspired by the motifs painted on a Chinese Yuan Dynasty porcelain vase.



Join us for an exclusive look at the installation and opening reception of Murakami & Abloh: “AMERICA TOO”.

Nobuo Tsuji vs. Takashi Murakami

Nobuo Tsuji vs. Takashi Murakami

From 2009 to 2011 the eminent art historian Nobuo Tsuji and Takashi Murakami engaged in a reimagined e-awase (painting contest). In this twenty-one-round contest, newly published in Battle Royale! Japanese Art History, Tsuji selects historical works and Murakami responds creatively. Round 6 centers on the Edo Eccentric painter Soga Shōhaku and his monumental Dragon and Clouds (1763).

Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018

Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018

The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.

Louise Bonnet and Stefanie Hessler

In Conversation
Louise Bonnet and Stefanie Hessler

Gagosian hosted a conversation between Louise Bonnet and Stefanie Hessler, director of Swiss Institute, New York, inside 30 Ghosts, the artist’s exhibition of new paintings at Gagosian, New York. The pair explores the work’s recurring themes—the cycles of life, continuity and the future, and death—and discuss how the conceptual and pictorial structures Bonnet borrows from seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painting converge to form a metaphor for hard labor, basic animal urges, and the things we often try, but fail, to hide.

Oscar Murillo and Ben Luke on Franz West

In Conversation
Oscar Murillo and Ben Luke on Franz West

In conjunction with Franz West: Papier, the gallery’s presentation of paper-based works by Franz West at Frieze Masters 2023, artist Oscar Murillo and arts writer, critic, and broadcaster Ben Luke sit down to discuss Murillo’s collaboration in selecting the works on view, as well as his personal experiences meeting the late artist in London.

Georg Baselitz and Richard Calvocoressi sit next to each other in the artist’s studio

In Conversation
Georg Baselitz and Richard Calvocoressi

In conjunction with the exhibition The Painter in His Bed, at Gagosian, New York, Georg Baselitz and Richard Calvocoressi discuss the motif of the stag in the artist’s newest paintings.  

Jerome Rothenberg in a chair

In Conversation
Jerome Rothenberg and Charles Bernstein

Gagosian and Beyond Baroque Literary | Arts Center hosted a conversation between poets Jerome Rothenberg and Charles Bernstein inside Anselm Kiefer’s exhibition Exodus at Gagosian at Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles. Rothenberg and Bernstein explored some of the themes that occupy Kiefer—Jewish mysticism, the poetry of Paul Celan, and the formulation of a global poetics in response to the Holocaust—in a discussion and readings of their poetry.