Mr.'s A Secret Room (2019)
Courtesy of Musée Guimet
Japanese artist Mr., a protégé of Takashi Murakami, and American R&B singer and music producer Pharrell Williams, have collaborated on a site-specific installation for the Musée Guimet in Paris, home to the largest collection of Asian arts in Europe. Filling the museums top floor rotunda, Carte blanche to Mr. and Pharrell Williams: A Call to Action is a dizzying mash-up of vivid paintings, sculptures and neon lights.
But should the museum have given the duo full carte blanche? The slightly surreal Manga-inspired scenes depict children in military gear armed with candy, teddy bears and, in a frightening twist, colourful guns. If there is a political message to the exhibition, it has almost certainly missed its mark.
“While the exhibition explores the intrinsic potential of youth, the message may seem unclear at first”, says Sophie Makariou, current director of the Musée Guimet, before pointing out that Mr. was a survivor of domestic violence. That could help explain the contradictions and ambiguities in his work—the artist is known for featuring young characters in both playful and chaotic environments.
“In this age of uncertainty we live in, we have to believe in kids and hold on to the hope they embody. They have the power to make a real change”, says Mr., whose toy-looking rifles do not symbolise violence, per se, but militance. Childrens best weapon, to be protected at all costs, is their creativity and imagination, according to the artist.
Of Mr.s brash, pop-culture infused aesthetic, Williams says: “His perspective on life seems to be from the lands of a perpetual teenager.” But a return to a more youthful state of mind is exactly what the singer thinks the world needs. “War, education, ecology—all important decisions are made by grown-ups. What if children took control of the futures narrative, which is what I feel about todays Millennials and Gen Z-ers. They care enough to step up, trying to set an example for the next generation.”
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