Catherine O’Dolan – Miffy Art Parade

We’ve always considered Miffy to be a bunny of considerable stature, despite her diminutive dimensions. To celebrate her 60th anniversary (yes, really!), a parade of Miffy statues is on show in her native Holland and Japan. Expect to see Miffy as you’ve never seen her before!

Just as the craze for pop-up restaurants and shops has been a trend over recent years, so too is the pop-up art presentation. In London, we’ve been treated to a parade of elephants, then a raft of Paddington Bears from darkest Peru, even a flock of Shaun the Sheep – all artfully remastered in striking and unusual designs. Now it’s the turn of Miffy to hop onto the scene in a host of never-before-seen (dis)guises – though to be honest, those ears are always a bit of a giveaway!

Taking a lead from the original Elephant Parade, which incidentally started life in Rotterdam in 2008 as a means to raise awareness on elephant welfare, there will be 60 Miffy statues popping up, each standing at 1.8 metres tall, created by a series of artists from Holland and Japan. At the end of their show stint, the statues will be auctioned with proceeds going to one of Dick Bruna’s favourite charities, Unicef.

Through the course of a salubrious career that has spanned six decades, Miffy has maintained a consistent, clean-cut image. Now fans will see her in a dazzling array of different guises that playfully reflect what this little star means to artists and designers.
In contrast to the usual tight control kept over reproductions of Dick Bruna’s global icon – a hugely talented artist himself, Bruna has always been a stickler for the exact colouring, palette and design of each and every single Miffy product – the contributing artists were given free reign to create their own interpretation of the character. And boy, did they have some fun with it!

The resulting collection of eclectic and dynamic statues reflects a wide range of artistic influences, including elements of Dutch culture such as the Royal Delft Miffy statue by De Koninklijke (the fine ceramics company also produce a lovely collection of porcelain featuring Miffy). More avant garde designs include Wendelien Daan’s photograph-covered Miffy Transformer, Hans van Bentem’s intimidating Gothic bunny and Carli Hermès’ gold Sunshine Miffy.

There’s also a familiar surname among the featured artists: Madelon Bruna is Dick’s daughter, whose homage is covered with delicately painted flowers. “It was a tremendous honour to be asked to decorate one of the Miffy statues in my own way,” says Madelon. æI wanted to pay tribute to Miffy, so I covered her in flowers.”

There are also references to popular culture, from Sebastian Masuda’s Colourful Rebellion inspired by the famous Japanese youth culture Harajuku in Tokyo, to Bas Kosters’ Heading towards a suspicious showdown inspired by Leslie Charteris’ Saint novels – though the little dark silhouettes are perhaps a bit more comedy Inspector Clouseau than sophisticated Simon Templer.

Miffy has demonstrated her sartorial style over the years with a wardrobe of fetching dresses, so it is fitting that several artists should choose to focus on what Miffy is wearing. including an oh-so-cute carrot-themed dress from Makoto Oozu, and a chunky red knitted cardigan from Kesennuma Knitting Co that gives Miffy a hint of Santa style.
Artistic materials used vary too, from Makoto Koizumi’s wooden ‘hakoirimusume’ that sees Miffy playing hide-and-seek behind a piece of wood to Kodue Hibino’s fabric collage bunny that evokes gentle reminiscences of patchwork craft (Piece by Peace).

Several of the artists have chosen to explore the minimalist aesthetics that Bruna himself favoured. Rob Scholte created a striking monochromatic ying and yang-style statue entitled Grijs while Kenjiro Sano’s playful interpretation features a ghost-like Miffy, aptly named Spook Miffy. Only one artist took liberties with one of Miffy’s most famous assets: her ears. Richard Hutten has created a design where Miffy’s pert bunny ears are replaced by a single ‘bun’ style hairdo. What’s more, the design features several ‘faces’ so it appears as if like Miffy is looking at you from every angle.

Fun fact Miffy’s official birthday is 21 June. She shares her birthday with Prince William, and was born the same year as Bill Gates. Dick Bruna was born in 1927 – rather fittingly, it was the Year of the Rabbit.

Did you know?
Besides picture books, Dick Bruna has created over 2,500 pieces of artwork during his career until his retirement in 2012. Bruna created every picture of Miffy by hand using pencil and black poster paint, together with coloured card. With such exacting attention to detail, it would often take Bruna all day to get Miffy’s expression just right.

The Miffy Art Parade will be on display until 30 September 2105. 45 of the statues can be seen in Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague, with the remaining 15 will be part of a travelling exhibition in Japan. The statues will be auctioned in October in support of UNICEF.

Cuddle up with the ultimate Miffy Plush Toy by Schleich to celebrate the bunny girl’s 60th annivery and read our review of Miffy and the Royal Baby.

Author Notes
Dick Bruna was born in Utrecht in the Netherlands in 1927; in 1943, his family went into hiding during the Second World War. During that time, Dick kept himself occupied with drawing and painting. Some designers and illustrators who worked for his father’s publishing company would come to visit the Bruna family at their place of hiding, and would give him drawing lessons. Travelling to Paris after the war, Bruna discovered the works of artists including Matisse and Leger and spent more and more of his time drawing and painting, and after joining his father’s publishing company (AW Bruna & Zoon) he designed some 2,000 book covers and posters. In 1953, he started creating his own picture books and in 1955 the first Miffy book was published. There are now almost 30 different Miffy titles and they have sold over 85 million copies. The Dick Bruna House dedicated to Dick Bruna and his creation, Miffy was opened in Utrecht in 2006.

April 30, 2015