Nara is a sort of Japanese Jeff Koons, a mixed-media pop phenomenon whose work–importantly for us–speaks on many level, including to kids. We had already had a children’s book he illustrated (The Lonesome Puppy), so the kids were predisposed to like what he was offering. But we took them to the show this weekend, and it was so much more than Nara’s drawings.
There were smooth (but not touchable) sculptures of outsized dogs. There were his trademark melancholic rocker girls, clutching knifes and looking defiant. There were a series of kid-sized interior space s that he had built for the show, part dollhouse, part carnival. All art.
The exhibit is also pintsized, which is beautiful if you’ve got kids until 12. This is no endless deathslog through the Met. In one hour you’ve seen it all. The kids reacted to some items; others not as much. But I’ve been looking for a way to give them a museum experience, and this is a great starter.
Bonus: a lot of his girl-portraits, which make trenchant little commentaries on the Japanese obsession with Kawaii (cuteness), look like Nara was trying to draw my daughter (who is actually quite cute to me,, btw): pale skin, prominent forehead, sorta Asian-looking but with wide eyes, carrying a shiv in her hand. All of these portraits my daughter loved.
Only awkward moment: Dalia looked up at another fairly large painting and asked the only logical question: “Why is that girl smoking?”