Robb Interview: Takashi Murakami
The Japanese artist on his standout collaboration with Hublot.
The Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black is not only a mouthful to say, but an inventive and clear standout of 2021—a working piece of contemporary art (a domed flower face and 12 free-spinning petals, adorned with 563 black diamonds) that neatly furthers the agenda at Hublot, a manufacture set for arguably its strongest year given its incredible releases to date. We caught up with the man behind the All Black, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (famed for his colourful and smiling ‘Flowers’) to better understand what drove this alignment and his stunning debut timepiece.
Robb Report: Do you remember when you first became aware of Hublot?
Takashi Murakami: The first time I encountered Hublot was 17 years ago, in 2004, when I was asked to accompany a magazine editor to Baselworld. At the time I was interested in complication watches, so I eagerly accepted the invitation and ended up exploring the watch fair for five days or so. Hublot’s Miwa-san [Miwa Sakai, Asia Pacific regional director at Hublot, Japan], with whom I am currently working very closely, was already there at the time and she treated us very well at their booth. She even invited us to Hublot’s dinner … There were no self-serious speeches; instead, industry people and collectors were quietly discussing watches in astonishing depth, and I was blown away by the extremely tasteful event.
RR: Can you guide us through this incredible collaboration with Hublot …
TM: My wish was to be involved in watchmaking at the level where I could design a totally original piece, and my decision depended on whether that was possible When I explained this at the meeting, Miwa-san said it was absolutely possible, and that she wanted me to visit their factory in Switzerland so that they can prove it. So I visited and toured the factory in early 2020, and was absolutely, truly blown away, seeing how it unfolded, both the super-high technology and artisan techniques and values. I was convinced that it would be possible for them to make the kind of watch I envisioned, and so I humbly decided to go forward with the collaboration.
RR: Hublot’s tagline reads “the art of fusion”; you fuse low culture and high arts. Did this inform the work?
TM: First and foremost, it was the enthusiasm of Miwa-san and others at the headquarters. Second was the timing. It just so happened that my company’s design team was starting to function at an optimal level, with a potential to handle complex requests.
RR: What were some of the difficulties encountered on this project?
TM: It was all excitement. I love factories, so visiting the factory at Hublot’s headquarters had pushed me to the pinnacle of my enthusiasm. I found the computerised, automated cutting of crystal sapphire especially fascinating, so I am eager to find out whether or not that process was involved in my collaboration piece.
RR: Your signature smiling flower is featured on the dial. What’s the story behind it?
TM: People think of the smiling flower when they think of Takashi Murakami, so it was an obvious choice. The one thing I did request was to go all black on our first collaboration. This was because the very first impression I had when I learned about Hublot was its signature black rubber belt. And they made my wish come true.
RR: As an artist, what does time represent to you?
TM: Our job as artists is to always strive to be a punctuation mark in history. I aim to make each of the ideas and techniques I create become a historical milestone, focusing on how they would be perceived after my death. I think about my artworks’ expiration dates in the span of 100 or 200 years.
RR: And finally an obvious question for someone famed for their use of colour. Why did you keep things muted with the All Black?
TM: Because this is my first time working with Hublot, if I were to make it colourful, people will go, “oh, he is doing it again”. But if I used black, everyone will find it mysterious. There will be a mysterious story.
The Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black is limited to 200 pieces, $38,000; hublot.com
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