From Louis Vuitton handbags to smiling flower pillows, merchandise has long been an essential component of Takashi Murakami’s artistic practice. While Murakami often releases new merchandise alongside standout museum exhibitions, in 2016, Murakami found a new stage for artist-designed merchandise: ComplexCon. The annual music and arts festival—which boasts musician Pharrell Williams as its Cultural Director and Executive Chair and Murakami as the designer of the festival’s visual identity and aesthetic—brings together brands, musicians, and artists to drop their latest releases. Unsurprisingly, Murakami’s booth almost always draws the biggest crowds, with fans from all over the world eager to take home his newest sculptures, clothing, or even speakers. “Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of ‘high art,’” he once explained. “In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But that’s okay—I’m ready with my hard hat.”
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