The Simple Things (2008 – 2009)
Takashi Murakami and Pharrell Williams
By: Samuel Trotman
Japanese artist Takashi Murakami has a knack for reconciling qualities that seem at odds with each other: extravagance with simplicity, commercialization with art, mainstream with niche. So when he first met Pharrell at his major retrospective at the MOCA in Los Angeles in 2007 its only natural that the topic of duality came into conversation.
“Takashi and I were talking and we both stumbled across the same point, which is we get so caught up as human beings and sometimes we forget the simple things in life. And those simple things get overlooked,” Williams said during an interview with VernissageTV at Art Basel in 2009. “So, I took seven items that I cherish that people would look at and say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ But for me, these are the glue to my personality.”
First presented by Perrotin Gallery at Art 40 Basel (2009), Takashi Murakami and Pharrell’s collaborative sculpture, The Simple Things, is an object of curiosity and desire. The 6ft incarnation of Murakami’s character, Mr. DOB, offers up seven bejeweled consumer objects hand-picked by Pharrell: a can of Pepsi, a cupcake, Johnson’s Baby Lotion, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, a bag of Doritos, a Trojan Magnum condom, and a Billionaire Boys Club trainer, each rendered in gold and pavé to the sum of 26,000 diamonds and other precious gems by jeweler Jacob & Co.
Much like Pharrell’s own custom jewelry creations these seven items represent the everyday items that make up Pharrell’s universe. More than just a flex of wealth, the sculpture challenges the viewer to reconsider the value of everyday joys and pleasures. “It's funny that it takes these precious metals and precious diamonds for people to be reminded of how essential those products are in their lives, when for me one only needs to bite into a cupcake to feel its richness,” Pharrell said on the irony and poetry of the project.
The Mr. DOB sculpture itself offers an insight into Murakami’s approach to duality too: the open mouth, for example, evokes “ideas of consumption” as well as “ideas of protection,” while the exterior profile of the sculpture differs when viewed from different angles. On the front you’ll see Mr. DOB’s fearsome fangs rendered in manga style, while the back offers a self-portrait of the artist, complete with his trademark goatee.
Previously exhibited at the Palace of Versailles, Just Phriends marks the first time this legendary cultural artifact will be on display in the city of Paris for public view.
“I am very grateful that [this] piece is part of the auction,” Pharrell said recently. “It’s the first time anyone is going to see this in Paris, so it’ll be interesting to see how a new generation and audience interacts with it.”
Photographs and Production Images of The Simple Things (2008-2009) by Takashi Murakami & Pharrell Williams. ©2008-2009 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Perrotin