Takashi Murakami and Hublot team up to make some colourful and timely art. By Felix Scholz
Even if you don’t know the name, you know the work of Takashi Murakami. The Japanese-born contemporary artist made his name in the ’90s and hasn’t slowed down since. His artistic inspiration draws from pop culture — sci-fi and anime are as significant as Edo period ukiyo-e woodblock prints. His distinctive visual style is commonly referred to as “superflat” and uses bold colours, high gloss and elements of psychedelia and that particularly Japanese understanding of cuteness known as “kawaii” that is at once joyful and dark.
While Murakami’s original work is hugely significant (he’s represented by the prestigious Gagosian Gallery), it’s his extensive commercial collaborations for which he is most well known. In 2002 he worked with Marc Jacobs to redesign the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram, and he has collabroated with a who’s who of designers and artists including Virgil Abloh, Billie Eilish, Post Malone and Comme des Garçons. In this liminal space between commerce and art, Murakami’s particular retail-friendly vision has earned him a cult following, one synonymous with the culture of hype, drops and — very often — his signature bright and shining flowers.
Swiss watchmaker Hublot takes a similar view when it comes to the power of surprising partnerships, and has a strong pedigree in artistic collabs. So it made perfect sense when in 2021, the artist and the watchmaker teamed up, with Murakami’s iconic smiling flower showing up front and centre in Hublot’s sporty Classic Fusion family. Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe described how “artistic creation and our company’s know-how intertwine to give birth to a work of art you can wear on your wrist”.
The first offering was an all-black affair, but for the sophomore release, the watchmaker and the artist dialled everything up to 11. The 45-millimetre case is made from synthetic sapphire, which offers a deceptively fragile backdrop to the floral arrangement. Deceptive, because while the sapphire looks breakable, it is, in fact, virtually scratch-proof and surprisingly tough. But it’s what’s inside that takes the breath away. The watch is dominated by a three-dimensional kinetic sculpture of one of Murakami’s trademark blooms, with a central smiling face surrounded by 12 freely rotating colourful petals. The whole display is set with a rainbow of 487 stones, from rubies and sapphires in a range of colours to amethysts and tsavorites. Limited to 100 pieces, this watch is a phenomenal example of what happens when art and artisanal craft combine — a colourful symphony that will always make you smile. $147,000. hublot.com
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our seventh edition, Page 62 of Winning Magazine. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.