Murakami on the Shore

Murakami Ibiza

Festivities at Heart, Ibiza. Photo by Cinta Bosch Lopez and Joaquin Rosauro.

When the heat-seeking jet set drop off their bags at the Ibiza Gran Hotel this summer, they’ll see an installation, airlifted into the lobby just this week, more befitting the Pompidou than the discotheque: Oval Buddha, a 20 foot-tall Takashi Murakami sculpture previously displayed at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Versailles.

Giorgio Armani walked through and loved it. He was asking who did it,” said Tim Blum, co-owner of the gallery Blum & Poe, with outposts in Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo, and now temporarily Ibiza.

“I’ve seen that thing five times, in different places, and this is the best,” added Blum’s partner Jeff Poe. “That’s a masterpiece almost a decade in the making. It’s this great self-portrait—it kind of all starts and stops right there.”

Ibiza, the island ruled by famous deejays, is about as far from the tony Art Basel fair in Switzerland, where the dealers had flown in from, as one can get. But this summer, nocturnal revelers can spend their sober minutes taking in works by Murakami—some canonical, some weeks old—at two new art spaces: exhibition space Art Projects Ibiza, which is serving as a temporary platform for Blum & Poe, and, right next door, at the exhibition space Lune Rouge, which will show works from the extensive contemporary art collection of Guy Laliberté, the billionaire founder of Cirque du Soleil and a much-beloved Ibiza resident. (There is also a Murakami-related retail store in a new nightclub, Heart, masterminded by Laliberté.)

“You have these ideas about Ibiza: the dance culture, the club culture, all that,” Blum said. “But Ibiza’s become a hub for these European collectors who make it their home for the summer. It’s more unique than having a place in, say, the Hamptons.”

At the opening this week, local mayordomos, day-tripping captains of industry, and visiting kids with molly-fried crania stumbled off the beach and into a sparkling gallery housing a dazzling cluster of new work by Murakami, each multilayered and stuffed with allusions to Manga, video games, street art, emoji, classical Japanese prints, grid work, and Pop-art flora—not to mention the two giant traditional dragon sculptures breathing fire in Laliberté’s space, as if to protect the real gem of the billionaire’s collection, a gigantic Murakami mural that evokes comic books and Guernica in equal measure.

The artist arrived with his entourage in tow, a crew that had just been the toast of Art Basel, where they were spotted in outrageous wigs and makeup for the Galerie Perrotin party on a boat docked outside of town. In Ibiza, Murakami showed up in cargo shorts and Vans of his own design to greet the collectors with tans so dark they can only be achieved by lying on the fourth floor of a yacht.

“The light in Ibiza is un-fucking-believable,” Poe said.In the sun-dappled Lune Rouge, Laliberté walked through murmuring his approval; it was his first time seeing his collection in the space after it was completed. Pleased, the collector invited everyone to Heart, his new nightclub, where a dozen stations with food from around the world had been laid out on the terrace. It was all curated by the brothers Ferran and Albert Adria, of El Bulli fame. There was jamon iberico, Thai papaya salad, crudo, and “pizza”: paper-thin crackers topped with truffle-heavy parmesan and orbs of olive oil and fish roe that exploded in your mouth. Albert Adria was the guy who delivered this El Bulli-esque pizza.

“Not a bad way to live!” said the dealer Emmanuel Perrotin, who shows Murakami’s works at his galleries in New York, Paris and Tokyo, while popping some garlic butter prawns.

Dinner segued into the theater hour, during which Cirque dancers shimmied and twirled about the multi-tiered club, even if the meal itself had its own fair share of strange: intricate choreography amid the diners, a full crew of sitar players twing twong twang-ing away, naked women posing in front of mirror backdrops, something involving caterwauling actors smearing paint all over themselves as a live string quartet sawed through a blitzkrieg Vivaldi piece.

Soon enough, all this gave way to the local ways of liquor and house music. The buzzed dealers and Murakami’s Harajuku-swathed team took over the stage, luring the L.A. gallerist Harmony Murphy, Monsieur Perrotin, and, naturally, the actor Stephen Dorff onto the dance floor. Murakami, however, was standing in the background, grinning like hell. When asked by a reporter if this was the craziest, most paradoxical spectacle he had ever taken part in—this day-glo sin city showing some of the greatest art he’s ever made—Murakami could only laugh. Against the thump of EDM, it was the only soundbite that would have registered, anyway.