Kind­ness key to kids’ space in block­buster

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER - EL­IZ­A­BETH FORTESCUE ARTS EDI­TOR

The days when kids had to be dragged along to a cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence are long gone, with most lead­ing gal­leries and mu­se­ums of­fer­ing spe­cial ac­tiv­i­ties to en­tice even their youngest vis­i­tors. And for the many NSW fam­i­lies head­ing to Mel­bourne these school hol­i­days to catch the­atri­cal hit Harry Pot­ter And The Cursed Child there is an­other show guar­an­teed to in­trigue the whole fam­ily, no mat­ter their age.

The Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria’s has just opened the big­gest ever ex­hi­bi­tion of works by the fa­mous New York street artist KAWS (aka Brian Don­nelly), with a ded­i­cated space for fam­i­lies called KAWS: Play­time.

With an im­mense body of work which strad­dles pub­lic and street art, fash­ion and prod­uct de­sign, Don­nelly him­self had a hand in cre­at­ing KAWS: Play­time, which is by no means an add-on and takes up a gen­er­ously sized space within the ex­hi­bi­tion it­self.

The NGV’s cu­ra­tor of chil­dren’s pro­grams Kate Ryan cre­ated a set of fun ex­pe­ri­ences aimed at pro­vid­ing a way for chil­dren to get a feel­ing for what this high-pro­file con­tem­po­rary artist is about. Don­nelly was in­volved from the be­gin­ning.

“We started con­ver­sa­tions with Brian some years ago to cre­ate this space know­ing that, like many artists, it’s a first for them to work with chil­dren and fam­i­lies,” Ryan says.

“We wanted to work closely with him to cre­ate par­tic­i­pa­tory in­ter­ac­tives guided by his lead­ing fig­ure, BFF.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled KAWS: Com­pan­ion­ship In The Age Of Lone­li­ness starts the minute you en­ter the NGV. You can’t miss the mas­sive KAWS sculp­ture, GONE, which weighs in at and 14 tonnes and mea­sures seven me­tres tall.

Com­mis­sioned from the artist and now owned by the NGV, GONE is a kind of mod­ern-day pieta, with KAWS’ trade­mark gog­gle-eyed car­toon fig­ure BFF ap­pear­ing Christ-like in the arms of an­other fig­ure.

Don­nelly wanted to in­fuse GONE with “weight and emo­tion”.

“It was think­ing about clas­sic sculp­ture and loss,” he says.

The im­age mixes pathos with hu­mour, like much of the re­main­der of the show which con­sists of sculp­tures, works on pa­per, paint­ings and ex­am­ples of the com­mer­cial mer­chan­dise for which KAWS has un­der­taken numer­ous col­lab­o­ra­tions.

The show also in­cludes the paint­ing, THE KAWS AL­BUM, 2005, a riff on The Simp­sons’ The Yel­low Al­bum, that Sotheby’s sold at auc­tion in April for al­most $US15 mil­lion. The ven­dor was Ja­panese DJ and en­tre­pre­neur To­moaki Na­gao, and the anony­mous buyer was a French col­lec­tor who texted Don­nelly straight af­ter he bought it.

The buyer was happy for the pic­ture to be in­cluded in the NGV show.

Don­nelly shrugs off the price tag, say­ing such head­lines will only prompt peo­ple to think about his work in fi­nan­cial terms — “and that’s not in­ter­est­ing”.

Kids cer­tainly won’t do that. They’ll be too busy hav­ing fun in KAWS: Play­time where the ac­tiv­i­ties

in­clude a sim­ple com­puter game where the first thing you see is BFF from be­hind, look­ing a lit­tle dis­con­so­late.

“BFF looks lonely. BFF needs a friend. Let’s draw a friend for BFF,” the screen prompts say.

Kids then have the chance to draw a char­ac­ter of their choice and push a but­ton to send it off to BFF. BFF is then seen bend­ing down to pick up the draw­ing and hold it up in front of him.

Ryan says the game em­pha­sises the great re­sponse you can get from an act of kind­ness.

“It’s some­thing that is part of many pri­mary schools’ cur­ricu­lum of re­flect­ing on kind­ness and per­form­ing acts of kind­ness for oth­ers,” she says.


KAWS is dwarfed by his 7m-tall sculp­ture GONE.

Chil­dren en­joy their own space at the KAWS: Com­pan­ion­ship In The Age Of Lone­li­ness ex­hi­bi­tion.

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