Takashi Murakami On Why “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg”

Takashi Murakami, photographed by Koichiro Matsui.

The exhibition opens today at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

The following feature appears in the June/July 2017 issue of NYLON.

It’s no surprise that Takashi Murakami is clad in an octopus-shaped hat and Technicolor suit when we meet to discuss his upcoming exhibition, “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. After all, Murakami is known for embracing his colorful cartoon-like characters, such as Mr. DOB, and Kaikai and Kiki, for whom his studio is named.

Murakami began his career in the early ‘80s and quickly established a following on his own, but his 13-year collaboration with Louis Vuitton truly cemented his status as a pop-culture mainstay, along with the cartoon-emblazoned creations that were born of the partnership.

It was just his second time working with a fashion house, after a stint with Issey Miyake in 2000, and initially Murakami wasn’t even familiar with Marc Jacobs, the then-creative director of Louis Vuitton. But it didn’t take much convincing to get the artist on board. “The company asked me, ‘Could you come to Paris in the next three days?’” he recalls. “They bought me a business-class ticket and I thought, ‘Wow, this is real.’ So then, you know, I had to go.”

Murakami’s sphere of influence expanded to the music industry in 2007, when he designed the album art for Kanye West’s Graduation. In fact, the artist decided on the city in which he wanted to show “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg” because of the work he created for the Chicago-born rapper. “Chicago came from Kanye. Hip-hop is very big [there] and I want to collaborate with that culture,” Murakami says. “In Los Angeles I had a feeling of freedom, and then New York is the capital of the art world, but Chicago is in a medium position. I want to make super-experimental stuff, but at the same time balance it with the local situation.”

Takashi Murakami, Dob’s March, 1995.

Organized by Michael Darling, the chief curator at the MCA, “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg” will feature 57 of Murakami’s paintings and sculptures spanning his career of over 30 years. The artist describes the title of the exhibition as a situation in which one sacrifices a part of oneself to survive, but only temporarily.

Throughout his career, Murakami has explored such trauma-related themes with “cute characters,” such as the 2011 Japan tsunami and the resulting Fukushima nuclear power plant explosion, and the octopus serves the same function. His contemporary works incorporate traditional Japanese elements, such as images of chrysanthemums—a reference to the imperial seal of his home country— and the use of three-panel canvases for his paintings. 

Takashi Murakami, Flower Ball 2, 2002.

Murakami’s interpretation of these elements helps dictate the mood of his pieces. “When I was showing at Gagosian [in New York],” he notes, “the U.S. was at war with Iraq, which was depressing. That’s why I brought a Zen philosophy [to the exhibition]. That, for me, was a way to approach my Japanese background and link it with American culture.”

Faced with more than three decades’ worth of his art displayed in “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” Murakami looks back on his earlier works with a critical eye. “In the past, my paintings were unfinished and my technique was lacking. I was young. I [didn’t have] money and I couldn’t buy expensive paint,” he says. However, he spares his humility and expresses pride in his more recent pieces. “At the ‘Ego’ show at Al Riwaq in Doha [in Qatar] and ‘In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tale of a Rainbow’ at Gagosian, those paintings are finished, and I can say I am a painter.”

Takashi Murakami, 727, 1996.

“The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg” opens on June 6 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Takashi Murakami, Tan Tan Bo Puking - A.K.A. Gero Tan, 2002.

Screenshot via Youtube

While the song should serve as a reminder to your exes

Just a day after dropping new single "Nunya," featuring Dom Kennedy, Kehlani has released the winter-wonderland visuals to go along with. The singer, NYLON November cover star, and mother-to-be rocks some of the best winter 'fits I've seen in a while, including a glorious puffer jacket that could double as a down comforter that I absolutely need in my life right now.

Kehlani is clearly living her best life up in some snow-filled forest hideaway, vibing on the beach at sunset and sipping on something bubbly as she coolly reminds nosy exes that who she's with is "nunya business." There's not much of a story line (unlike her recent "Nights Like This" video); the main takeaway is that Kehlani is busy dancing through a forest, missing no one and chilling amongst people who are clearly not the subjects of the song.

Kehlani is only two short months away from bringing baby Adeya into the world, who she thanked for helping her get through the video process. "Shot that 7 months pregnant in da snow..." Kehlani wrote on Twitter, adding, "thank u baby for da motivation, mommy was FROZE."

Even from the womb, Adeya has been hustling hard alongside her momma. Twitter user @ODtheMC pointed out that this is already her second music video appearance, and she's not even been born.

Get some mulled wine ready and escape into Kehlani's winter getaway, below. Stay tuned for her forthcoming mixtape, While We Wait, out on February 22.

Kehlani - Nunya (feat. Dom Kennedy) [Official Music Video]



Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images.

As in Black Panther Political Party leader

It's been a running joke that the Black parents/grandparents of millennials were really confused about all of the Black Panther hoopla ahead of its 2018 release. Many of them were anticipating a movie about members of the Black Panther Political Party and didn't know who the hell T'Challa was. Well, those people are about to have their moment, and we're about to have another one.

Variety is reporting that Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader at the center of the upcoming biopic Jesus Was My Homeboy, could be played by none other than Daniel Kaluuya. Apparently, he is in negotiations for the role. And he's not the only Black Panther alum in the mix. The Warner Bros. project is being produced by Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler. The same article reports that the forever swoon-worthy Lakeith Stanfield—who appeared with Kaluuya in Jordan Peele's Get Out—is also in negotiations, to play William O'Neal, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panther Party.

Coogler and Charles King are putting together a dream cast to tell a difficult story. Hampton was killed by the Chicago Police Department, while his pregnant girlfriend lay next to him, thanks in part to information they received from O'Neal. Whenever it's out, I strongly recommend having Black Panther queued up as a palate cleanser.