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Brooklyn Museum art show "Jean-Michel Othoniel: My Way" opens on August 17

French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel's larger-than-life works at the new Brooklyn Museum art exhibition exude imagination of kidlike proportions.

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Jean-Michel Othoniel's "My Way" at the Brooklyn Museum


It's not every day that a Brooklyn Museum art exhibition can work on two levels simultaneously: one for grown-ups, infused with innuendo and sometimes dark intimations, and another for kids, who can enjoy the elemental essence of the work—that is, take it at face value. But that's just what midcareer retrospective "Jean-Michel Othoniel: My Way," the new Brooklyn Museum art show, accomplishes. The French artist's larger-than-life, often fairy-tale-inflected works are at once playful and full of cultural references, drawing children and adults alike into their maker's unique take on the world. Here are six pieces (or clusters) of art families shouldn't miss at the wonder-inspiring show.

Tears (2002)
Upon entering the exhibit's first large gallery families will encounter a set of blown-glass containers holding water and a bright assortment of biomorphic, sea-creature-like objects. Like a modern-day cabinet of curiosities, the luminous work will draw kids in with its ever-changing tableaux, which morph into something new as the viewer moves. Make sure to bring a camera to capture the kaleidoscopic magic.

My Bed (2002)
A fantastical giant bed made of metal, blown glass and fabric, the main work in the second gallery conjures a scene out of a Roald Dahl children's book. Clearly it is meant to embody the stuff of dreams itself. Of all the tempting works on view, this will be the toughest to keep little ones from touching.

The Precious Stonewall (2010)
Perhaps the most enigmatic of the works on view, Precious Stonewall is also the most monumental. The massive 3-D cube made of golden glass bricks glistens with light and sparkles with strings of gemlike baubles. The artist created it in homage to the beaded-necklace-strewn piles of bricks lining some Indian roads (he built it in India) but also dedicates it to the seminal history of Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn. The kids, though, may think of it as a compacted 3-D vision of the Yellow Brick Road.

Self-Supporting Knot (2011), Lacan's Knot (2009) and Lacan's Double Knot (2011)
The show's second-to-last gallery contains a trio of works showcasing the artist's obsession with strings of pearls, the negative spaces they create and the beauty of handblown glass itself. The gravity-defying Self-Supporting Knot rises into the skylit space as though an invisible hand were holding it; Lacan's Knot, a sculpture of purple and silver giant mirrored spheres, and the enormous, suspended Lacan's Double Knot hovering in the center of the room offer kids a brilliant lesson in how sculpture is best viewed from as many angles as possible.

Maquette for Boat of Tears (2005)
Alongside the tiny final room's collection of watercolor drawings is a small sculpture that was the prototype for a giant work commissioned by the Pompidou Center in Paris. Younger children will delight in its whimsy—the wooden boat is strewn with delicate strands of glistening glass—while older kids and adults will get a dose of politics when they learn that it's made of a piece of an actual wooden boat on which Cubans fled their country, which the artist found abandoned when he lived in Miami.

The Secret Happy End (2008)
Upon entering and leaving the museum, little museumgoers will no doubt be intrigued by The Secret Happy End, a piece the Brooklyn Museum owns. The red glass ornament–bedecked stage wagon is like a life-size toy, or perhaps a hallucinatory, Fellini-esque vision sprung to life. Somehow the work calls to mind childhood dreams, journeys, farewells, the circus and history itself, all at the same time.At once elegiac and futuristic, it's the perfect embodiment of the artist's complex and moving worldview.

"Jean-Michel Othoniel: My Way" is on view at the Brooklyn Museum from Friday, August 17, to Sunday, December 2.


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