Takashi Murakami & Pharrell Williams’ US$2.6 Million Sculpture is an Art of Extreme Extravagance

In recent years we see that crossover retail seems to be the success formula for driving skyrocketing sales in the world of fashion and sneakers, for example Supreme x Rimowa, Uniqlo x Kaws, etc. These limited edition items appearing on the second-hand market somehow always managed to cost far more than their initial price tags. The art market seems to have caught on the fad as well as we now see Christie’s putting up Takashi Murakami and Pharrell Williams’ The Simple Things sculpture for sale at the upcoming Christie’s Auction in Hong Kong. This collaboration between the two pop icons is estimated to be worth US$2.6m-3.8m. 

The Simple Things by Takashi Murakami & Pharrell Williams|Estimate: US$2.6m-3.8m

Pharrell Williams (right) is a fan of Takashi Murakami (left)


Pharrell Williams is an American Grammy Award-winning singer, rapper, songwriter and record producer that is perhaps most well-known for his chart-topping hit single Happy. Besides being an accomplished musician, Pharrell is also an entrepreneur and fashion designer, with his own multi-media creative collective i am Other that serves as an umbrella for his fashion and art endeavors. 

One of his most iconic collaborations recently is the adidas Pharrell Williams Hu NMD Shoes, where a pair could easily set you back for a couple thousand US Dollars on the second-hand market. 

Pharrell also curated an exhibition by Japanese artist MR. at the Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts in Paris entitled Carte blanche to Mr. and Pharrell Williams: A Call To Action back in July this year. 

The truth is Pharrell has always been a passionate art lover who is frequently spotted at art events like Art Basel and owns contemporary art pieces by the likes of Keith Haring and KAWS in his private collection. These highly sought-after contemporary artists all come up with works that give off a happy and delightful vibe, akin to Pharrell’s own public persona. Pharrell once mentioned in an interview that his three favourite artists are Jeff Koons, Marc Newson and Takashi Murakami, adding that Murakami is “the king of kings.” 

adidas Pharrell Williams Hu NMD Shoes

Backview of The Simple Things


How did these two pop icons get together in the first place? Back in 2007, MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Los Angeles honoured Murakami with a major retrospective (along with a nice dinner party) which Pharrell attended. They hit it off right off the bat and Pharrell even flew out to Tokyo to discuss his artistic vision with his prospective partner the following year.

Murakami incorporated Pharrell’s ideas with his own, giving birth to The Simple Things. It was reportedly sold for US$2m within the first thirty minutes at Art Basel 2009, ending up in the private collection of that bidder ever since.

The Simple Things is first and foremost a sculptural representation of Murakami’s character, Mr. DOB. Seven consumer products which are handpicked by Pharrell can be found behind its bared fangs: 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.

The main body of the sculpture features Mr.DOB, an original character by Murakami

Seven items that Pharrell uses on a day-to-day basis can be found inside its mouth


They are certainly not the ones that you can buy off the street, since they were fashioned from gold and bejewelled with 26,000 precious stones like diamonds thanks to jeweller Jacob & Co.

Murakami has a knack for reconciling qualities that seem at odds with each other: Extravagance with Simplicity, Commercialization with Art, Mainstream with Niche. The dynamic duo repackaged simple things in life in the most extravagant manner one could think of, which raises the question: “Do cupcakes bring us greater joy when it is soft and fluffy, or when it is bejewelled with precious gems?”

Wow, Kaikai Kiki by Takashi Murakami|Estimate: US$1.9m-2.6m


Murakami’s other painting, Wow, Kaikai Kiki, will also be put up for sale at the same event. Its dimensions are approximately 300 X 600cm with an estimated price of US$1.9m-2.6m. The painting features two of Murakami’s original characters Kaikai and Kiki, one with rabbit ears while the other three eyes and jagged teeth. It is said that together they have the dual meanings of “dangerous yet appealing” and “brave, strong and sensitive” - once again a display of the significance of duality in Murakami’s artistic works.  Clusters of Murakami’s iconic cartoon sunflowers with smiley faces fill up the background.

The art piece was painted in 2009-2011, and there are two other similar-sized paintings within the same series: one is in the collection of The Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles, while the other has just been featured in MURAKAMI VS MURAKAMI exhibition at Tai Kwun Hong Kong earlier this year.

HI-LITE is a new themed sale by Christie’s focusing on contemporary neo-pop aesthetic. Besides Takeshi Murakami’s artworks, there are also other exciting creations by globally renowned Japanese artists like MR. and MADSAKI, and also from Hong Kong’s very own Michael Lau, dubbed the “Godfather of Toy Figures”.

Pharrell Williams (left) curated an exhibition for MR. (right) in Paris back in July this year

Exercising My Telekinetic Powers by MR.|Estimate: US$103K-154K


Friends who follow the Asian Contemporary Art scene will be familiar with the works of Japanese artist MR. MR. is heavily inspired by his passion for anime, manga, lolita and other influences from the Otaku subculture. Exercising My Telekinetic Powers depicts a prepubescent school girl that is typical of a Japanese manga, surrounded by candies, pastries, junk food, stationery, stars, etc., portraying a manga-like surrealistic scene when time stood still. The cost to bring home this piece of fantasy is estimated to be around US$103K-154K.

The artist nicknamed himself after the post-war Japanese baseball star Shigeo Nagashima, the third baseman for the Yomiuri Giants known as "Mister." He was also Murakami’s first studio assistant and together they are proponents of the “Superflat” art movement.

MADSAKI (left) reinterpreted Murakami (right)'s most recognizable sunflower motif

Tooth Brush by MADSAKI|Estimate: US$128K-257K


MADSAKI is perhaps best known for reinterpreting classic artworks, anime, movies, etc. in provocative and audacious means - even fellow artist and mentor Kuramaki’s iconic sunflower motif is not spared from his reinterpretation. MADSAKI is fast gaining popularity in the Contemporary Art market, as evident from the recent sale of his reinterpretation of Picasso’s classic Dora Maar au Chat. Dora Maar au Chat 2, his reinterpreted version, sold for US$255K in the end, breaking his own personal record and smashing estimates. 

MADSAKI’s trademark is undoubtedly the drippy eyes on the faces of his paintings. He proclaimed: “There are plenty of artists who can copy masterworks much more beautifully than I can. I’m not interested in painting beautifully or nicely. To me, ugly is beautiful.”

Soon to be auctioned Tooth Brush by the Japanese artist was drawn in 2017 and has an estimated price of US$128K-257K. This time round MADSAKI abandons reinterpretation of popular imagery and instead features an intimate subject - his wife. It is like a sneak peek into his spouse’s daily life, bordering on voyeurism. “While drawing her in my studio, there were many times that I could not stop crying. Transience. I want to believe that these feelings of love and strong connection will last for eternity.” he said.

Package Change: Three Michael Walk by Michael Lau|Estimate: US$64K-103K

Michael Lau


As mentioned earlier an artwork by local artist Michael Lau, dubbed the “Godfather of Toy Figures”, will also appear at this auction. Lau declared his artistic statement "All art are toys. All toys are art" last year. Instead of vinyl figures he will be debuting his first ever painting of his Package Change series at this auction, namely Package Change: Three Michael Walk. It was painted this year in 2019 and price is estimated to be US$64K-103K. 

Lau intentionally employed canvases that are non-identical for his creation, as though to represent three people with different personalities and physique coming from different walks of life. The three different Michaels are said to represent the Wise, the Brave and the Carefree.

The title of this painting comes from a saying in Confucius’ Analects: “When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualities and follow them, their bad qualities and avoid them.”

HI-LITE Evening Sale Highlights

Takashi Murakami (B. 1962); & Pharrell Williams (B. 1973). The Simple Things

Lot no: 58
Executed in 2008-2009
Size: 118 x 110 x 101 cm

  • Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
  • Acquired from the above by the present owners

Estimate: US$ 2,600,000 - 3,800,000

Takashi Murakami (B. 1962). Wow, Kaikai Kiki

Lot no: 59
Painted in 2010-2011
Size: 300 x 608 cm

  • Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
  • Acquired from the above by the present owners

Estimate: US$1,900,000 - 2,600,000

Yoshitomo Nara (B. 1959). Angry Blue Boy

Lot no: 57
Painted in 2008
Size: 198 x 193 cm

  • Galerie Meyer Kamer, Vienna
  • Anon. Sale, Christie’s HK, 28 May 2011, lot 1042
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: US$1,900,000 - 2,600,000

MADSAKI (B. 1974). Tooth Brush

Lot no: 56
Painted in 2017
Size: 245 x 180 cm

  • Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
  • Private collection, Asia
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: US$128,000 - 257,000

MR. (B. 1969). Exercising My Telekinetic Powers

Lot no: 65
Painted in 2012
Size: 130.5 x 97 cm

  • Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, USA
  • Private collection, USA
  • Anon. Sale, Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 May 2017, Lot 167
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: US$103,000 - 154,000

Michael Lau (B. 1970). Package Change: Three Michael Walk

Lot no: 66
Painted in 2019
Size: 198 x 396 cm

Estimate: US$64,000 - 103,000

Christie's Hong KongHI-LITE Evening Sale

Venue: Grand Hall, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Address: No.1 Expo Drive, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Auction: 23 November 2019|5:30pm
Viewing: 22-23 November 2019|10am - 7pm