This massive painting by Japan’s most successful and well-known contemporary artist Takashi Murakami is displayed in the primest spot of the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. It’s huge. It’s epic. It’s unmissable. Anyone entering the museum’s main galleries, where the core selections from the permanent collection are exhibited, will see it as they arrive from the lobby, whether they come via escalator, elevator or a stairway.
So exactly how big is this painting? And what’s it called?It’s 82-feet long (which is 2500cm!) by 9.8-feet tall by 2 7/8 inches thick and has an apt, suitably long title: “In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow.” The painting was originally shown at an exhibition of new work by Murakami at the Gagosian Gallery in New York in 2014 in a “room” larger than the one in its current L.A. home.
At Gagosian, “In the Land…” occupied a single wall. At the Broad, it has to be split on two walls; The painting runs along one wall and then turns a corner to an adjoining wall. Murakami’s masterpiece is a space hog, greedily demanding space that might be occupied by works from other artists.
The gallery is more or less filled with only Murakami’s paintings, as most of the Broad’s dozens of individual galleries are filled by one artist’s work (a gallery is devoted to Warhol) or the artwork of related artists (a gallery devoted to works by both Basquiat and Haring). It might seem that Murakami’s work is stealing space from other artists. But if “In the Land…” was smaller, the freed-up space would likely just be filled with more Murakami works.
Murakami is as A-list a global art star as one gets in the international contemporary art world. Popular, both with collectors and the public, and critically-acclaimed, he can get any space his work demands. Warhol, Basquiat, Haring, Ruscha — all these artiss get less gallery space at the Broad. So for now his work is in one of the largest galleries and the best-located in the Broad until the curators feel differently about it.
At a smaller scale, the painting would be less impressive, less epic, less available to draw in viewers. Size matters. Scale can make all the difference. Which is not to detract from the work. It is a masterpiece. But if the same painting was only two-feet long, we doubt it would would garner the same consideration.
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