Kindness key to kids’ space in blockbuster
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: PLAYTIME OFFERS SEVERAL OTHER EXPERIENCES. ENTRY FREE WITH EXHIBITION ENTRY. THE EXHIBITION IS ON UNTIL APRIL 13, 2020; NGV. VIC. GOV. AU
KAWS is dwarfed by his 7m-tall sculpture GONE.
Children enjoy their own space at the KAWS: Companionship In The Age Of Loneliness exhibition.