Jul 03 2020

Takashi Murakami’s Company Facing Bankruptcy

by Jae Lamb

TAKASHI MURAKAMI announced that his company Kaikai Kiki may go bankrupt. Image via Instagram

On July 1, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami announced on Instagram that his business is on the verge of bankruptcy. 

In a 15 minute-long video, titled How I was Forced to Abandon the Production of Jellyfish Eyes Part 2, a downcast Murakami told his two million-plus followers that his Tokyo-based art production company Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., founded in 2001, is facing bankruptcy. Murakami cites the unforeseen predicament of Covid-19 as the reason behind his company’s looming downfall. He has also had to halt production on his nine-year long project, a fantasy feature film titled Jellyfish Eyes Part 2: Mahashankh.

Part one of Jellyfish Eyes (2013), about a Japanese boy who befriends a jellyfish-like creature following a personal loss, premiered in Los Angeles and marked Murakami’s directorial debut. Despite the enormous budget that Murakami poured into this movie, it was not well received in box offices. A review by The New York Times described it as “poorly shot and afflicted by tedious sound . . . and inept special effects.” 

Murakami’s tendency for lavish spending is no secret: a handful of art collectors and industry insiders purported that the artist’s financial habits led to his 2019 departure from Blum & Poe gallery (Los Angeles / New York / Tokyo), which represented him since the 1990s, as reported by Artnet News. In order to drastically reduce the business tax of his company, Murakami stated in the video that he plans to “fil[e] the film’s production cost as tax-exempt expenditure, [and] to produce and release a series of videos to publicly announce the discontinuation of the film’s production.” 

The day following his announcement, Murakami posted a long passage on Instagram addressing the various reactions he received for the video, saying that an artist’s job is to be a “living proof of an era,” and that “vividly depicting my suffering and struggles in this present chaos is also a job I must execute.” He stressed that he has “never been complacent,” instead always thinking about how to “become the mirror that reflects this era and have been doing everything . . .  to simultaneously execute every and all such ideas.” He further added that facing bankruptcy is a “terrifying” “routine,” and that he has “always been pouring whatever funds I have into every imaginable project.”

Murakami’s psychedelic world of smiling flowers and anime characters has cemented him as one of contemporary pop culture’s most well recognized artists. He is also an active member of streetwear and fashion circles. The artist’s most recent Uniqlo T-shirt collaboration with American singer and songwriter Billie Eilish sold out the day after its release in May, and his longstanding partnership with luxury brand Louis Vuitton has also garnered commercial success.

Jae Lamb is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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