27.Mar.2010 Miffy at the Gallery by Dick Bruna

If there is one baby book that sums up an aspirational middle class life then it is probably Miffy at the Gallery. Apparently it has always been a big seller at the Art Gallery of NSW bookshop, as well-to-do parents think what an excellent role model Miffy will play for their child.

In fact, I came across Miffy at the Gallery via a poster shop in Tokyo in 2003. I was walking through one of the few enormous malls in Odaiba – a beach and amusement park on reclaimed land in Tokyo bay – and chanced upon a design store. Flicking through the posters – reproductions of design classics including a lovely series of 1950s Olivetti advertising – there was a simple Miffy poster featuring the image from cover of the book with no surrounding text.

Thinking of a future when there might be children around, I bought the poster and when the children came a few years later, it was framed and hung in their bedroom.

As far as the story goes, Miffy goes to the gallery and is confronted by art that seems to always reflect her being. Facing an existential crisis, she rebels and refuses to be a cute bunny.

Oh, I think that is another story.

In fact, the book ends with Miffy wanting to be an artist and declaring that “I think art galleries are fun”.

Given that Dick Bruna first published the story in 1997 it does make me wonder whether it was all an elaborating stroke of marketing genius from the Dutch museums. Apparently the book is quite hard to get now. It goes in and out of print – perhaps reflecting the current challenges facing art museums.

Or maybe that, too, is reading too much into it.

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