Meet the Art World’s New Rock Star

Yusaku Maezawa

Yusaku Maezawa photographed in his Tokyo home on a on a variation of Jean Prouvé’s Colonial-type armchair. (Photographed by Christoffer Rudquist for Christie’s)

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa’s route to being a internationally renowned collector of contemporary art included a stint honing his musical chops in Santa Monica, Calif. Raised in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo, Maezawa says his childhood focus was music, which he pursued with passion, playing drums and guitar in a band with friends.

Although he came from a middle-class family — his father a” salaryman” accountant and his mom a housewife — Maezawa skipped college and scraped together the resources to move to Santa Monica instead of going to college, where he played gigs around town, an experience he told Christies.com helped him launch his first business venture when he got back to Japan: selling mail-order music CDs from his kitchen table.

From there, he segued to fashion e-commerce, launching Zozotown in 2004, “which reportedly made him a billionaire by the age of 35 (he is currently Japan’s 14th richest person according to Forbes, which estimates his net worth — and this is after his [painter Jean-Michel] Basquiat sprees — at $4.3 billion),” according to Christie’s.

His artist’s perspective and financial resources combined to position him to become a world-class collector of contemporary art, including furniture, paintings and sculpture. The Christie’s article tantalizingly describes a room in the Tokyo home where Maezawa was  interviewed: “two Alexander Calder mobiles, one red, one black, hang elegantly above his head; a Roy Lichtenstein painting spans a nearby wall; while a roughly hewn Willem de Kooning sculpture is frozen in motion on a dining table surrounded by a dozen Jean Prouvé chairs.”

But he still maintains a love for music, “very loud, hardcore rock and heavy metal,” he says, listing Agnostic Front, Biohazard, Slayer and other 1980s U.S. acts among his favorites.  “Actually, Metallica’s drummer also collects Basquiat,” he says.

Christie’s has proclaimed the 41-year-old “a rock star of the art world after electrifying the market with a string of record-breaking purchases.” The auction house further details: “Eyebrows were first raised in May 2016 following a two-day, $98-million spree that filled his shopping basket with seven works by artists including Richard Prince, Jeff Koons and Bruce Nauman. Not forgetting Basquiat’s Untitled (1982), whose visceral depiction of the artist as a devil reportedly gave Maezawa ‘shivers’ when he first laid eyes on it and cost a record $57.3 million at Christie’s.”

We’ll check back with Maezawa to see how his musical tastes have evolved, and what he’s added to his collection in 2017. Meantime, read the complete article here at Christies.com .

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