Takashi Murakami at The Orpheum with Pico Iyer

In a small crowded area in downtown LA, Takashi Murakami said, “It’s like when I first saw Giant Robot magazine in New York.” It’s been years since I’ve spoken with Murakami who in between our last meetings, has gone from superstar to megastar, from world wide artist and now filmmaker. I’m not sure which is greater, but he’s the bigger one.

Takashi Murakami was the subject of a Q and A at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. The brightly lit marquee spelled out his name as if he were a movie or a band. A line of many recognizable art fans formed outside an hour early. Over 1400 tickets were sold to see him speak with Pico Iyer, an author of ten books who has lived in Japan for decades. It’s part of the Broad series of talks which features interviews with artists and is a powerful set up for their own up-and-coming museum in downtown LA across from MOCA.


Pre-talk, I got to go to the upstairs vip area. Mark Ryden, Eli Broad, Murakami, Tim Blum and a crew of artists I’ve had the pleasure to work with, hang out.

Takashi appeared with his mini convoy. Translator, photographer, and perhaps assistant. It was nice to catch up with Takashi, and it went into a blur. It was a conversation about our lives. It was nice to see him continue his hustle and still be chill. He’s obviously hit that mark where he can be an otaku and a goofy guy wearing a plush pink hat. He can say what he feels, do what he wants, and still be part of art history. He’s wise enough to know that he doesn’t have to care so much. Do people need to love him, do people still think he’s a heel, does it matter? No. I don’t think so.


Joanne Heyler Curator of the Broad


Hug photos-don’t like them, but this one works, maybe because it’s blurry.


These days, he makes giant art pieces including one that’s 100 meters long. His studio is still gigantic, he still has tons of minions, and he’s still hard working. He’s splitting art time with cinema, which is obvious after seeing his short pieces like the Inochi interstitials and his Louis Vuitton animation. The talk spanned his personal history, his work with the art establishment in Japan, Fukushima and his own giving back to art. It barely scraped the surface on topics that can be extrapolated into hour long conversations. He mentions that his helpers basically say “fuck you” when a project is done and they’re disgruntled and leaving his “factory”. He mentions that his job is to say “no” and not be satisfied which is basically buying him time to perhaps say “yes” after everything is done and each possible avenue is explored. It’s that drive that makes him Murakami. Most won’t understand, and that’s for the better.

Talks like this often go too fast, and the fella who held up the 5 minutes and then 0 minutes signs was largely ignored. He held those signs for a while and then the show was complete. It lasted about an hour and could have gone two. Some questions from the audience came in and were largely useless, except for the one question about advice to a young artist. He mentioned how it’s easier to get into art these days, much like a band in the 90s, but your career might be quite short, so “be careful”.


Andrew Hem and Nathan OtaIMG_2741 copy

After the talk, some wanted the hipster burger next door where handle-bar mustaches and pipes were being handed out. Mark Ryden wanted to go anywhere and that was closeby. We thought about it, then realized, it’s hipster burgers, it’s packed, and I know it’s not for me. I suggested that home would be better. We opted for a old and nearly forgotten place in Little Tokyo, where it would be easy to get a seat in a vinyl booth. They’ll make earnest food that’s been tested for decades. What’s wrong with places like this? Are hipster burgers really better? Are we fooled by the mixes of simple spices? They’re quickly disappearing and I’ll miss them all.

It turns out, when our food arrives, Murakami comes in with his staff. He looks at our food: simple ramen, gyoza, and fried rice, and says that’s what he’s about to eat. He sits with us for a photo and laughs. We shoot some and he shoots one and posts it quick. Some rumble quietly at the coincidence that he’d show up at the same place. I thought, “Is it?”


Andrew Hem, Rob Sato, Sean Chao, Nathan Ota, Takashi Murakami, Edwin Ushiro, Mari Inukai