"Indirectly! Maybe!" Schimmel said.
We walked past crinkled sheet metal from a plane engine (more found art than destroyed art), a painting made with the artist's feet (more disrespected art than destroyed art). "The artist told me, you know, after you have been painting with your feet awhile, it's hard not to be good at it," Schimmel said. We admired a large, disturbing canvas, a mash of fur in a vague outline of an animal. It's by Kazuo Shiraga, the guy who painted with his feet. "Oh, that is a wild boar," Schimmel said. "A real wild boar. Shiraga shot it. He painted in the entrails, I think, but the fur is real. How did he get its fur on here, and how hasn't it cracked? No friggin' idea."
We stopped before a tall board covered in Japanese newsprint that had been hacked at. It was from Shozo Shimamoto. It's intended to be the first thing that people see after the destroyed Murakami, Schimmel said. I pointed out the dates on the Shimamoto information card: "1928-2013." Schimmel said the artist had died recently, only a few weeks ago, "but he was a wild man! He came to Los Angeles once and shaved off all his hair, then asked all of these famous artists — Yoko, Marina Abramovic — to sign his head, then he never washed it off and just let his hair grow over it. Which is wonderful, isn't it? Isn't that what art is all about?"
A couple of days later, when the time came to destroy the Murakami — a kind of ceremonial way of opening the show — Tomohiko Murakami, the artist's son, now in his 60s and a university professor of pop culture in Kobe, Japan, appeared at the MCA with his wife and two 20-something children. He wore a blue coat and white pants and cream-colored Chuck Taylor sneakers, and Schimmel, in a suit, said, "Your father's memory continues to grow." They bowed and Schimmel guided him around the show a bit.
Then it was time.
The piece to be destroyed is called "Entrance." It has been destroyed — and re-created and destroyed — several times since its debut at a 1955 Tokyo art exhibition. It is made to Saburo Murakami's specifications: a 12-by-10-foot wall constructed of taut layers of heavy paper and cardboard covered in gold leaf. The senior Murakami would build the work, then violently hurl himself through it, creating a gallery entrance.
"Very high," Tomohiko Murakami said, staring up at the work.
"Superman, we need," Schimmel replied.
Murakami stepped back.
He has done this a few times, he told me through a translator. He is nervous each time but understands his father's art better each time too. He has also learned that the secret to destroying his father's art is to not think of his father or art or the work's meaning but, rather, "nothing at all."
"Mr. Murakami, whenever you're ready," said the MCA's Darling.
Murakami took off his coat, walked slowly to the painting, stood a moment before it, looked upward.
Then sprung forward in a violent spasm of windmilling arms and kicking legs. He created a square, squat entrance. Inspected it. Then turned and bowed. I whispered to Schimmel, "How much is this piece worth?"
"That's the thing," he whispered back. "It's never been monetized. It's worth the experience, which is a lot."