EBay is its new setting

Times Staff Writer

For all the talk of the $965 limited-edition tote bag at the Louis Vuitton boutique in Takashi Murakami’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary, the hottest item at the gala opening was not for sale. True, plenty of well-heeled folks visited the show’s glittering commercial centerpiece Sunday night and paid good money for LV bags, coin purses and planners decorated by the man of the moment. But what everyone wanted -- had to have -- were the Murakami place mats on the dinner tables.

Blooming with happy-face flowers, the round fiberglass mats adorned each setting. At the end of the meal, guests -- who paid $1,000 to $10,000 for a seat at the table -- were entitled to take their mats home. But it wasn’t that easy -- not to mention genteel. Some diners who left early swept up mats from unoccupied spaces as well as their own. People who got up to socialize before dessert found their mats missing when they returned. Shameless thieves went trolling, while proud mat owners sidled up to the Japanese artist and asked him to sign their new possessions.

At the end of the evening, as the crowd spilled outside and waited for cars to be delivered, the saddest losers started begging: “I didn’t even get one and you got three.”


Forget about pity, here’s an opportunity: A Murakami place mat, signed on the back with a flower drawn by the artist, popped up on EBay this week with a starting price of $999.99. No bids yet. For those who can’t afford that, there’s a Murakami press kit -- complete with fact sheet, a statement about the exhibition and a copy of MOCA’s magazine -- on the block for $9.99.

“What took so long?” asked Paul Schimmel, MOCA’s chief curator who put together the retrospective, when he heard about the auction. He doesn’t need a press kit, but the place mat is a different story.

“I didn’t get one,” he said. “I’m going online and bidding it up.”