anthony Browne’s Happy Museum

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COURTESY OF ANTHONY BROWNE
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As you take the escalators to this exhibit on the 3rd floor of the Seoul Arts Center, you'll be greeted by a warm rush of air created by a happy swarm of children. It’s a crowd that's somewhat expected. They're all here to learn more about Anthony Browne, a renowned author and illustrator of children’s books and a winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition given to creators of children’s books. With happiness as the theme of the exhibition, Browne portrays the contemporary states of mind in clever and fun ways that people of all ages can relate to. Willy, a small and weak chimpanzee with soft eyes and a calm demeanor, is a celebrated character who Browne deems to be more famous than he is. Willy takes many forms in Browne’s imagination, amusingly appearing in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or transforming into Frida Kahlo herself. Yet, it seems as though no matter the situation, he is in pain. Browne noted that Willy is a “self-portrait of our helpless selves.” Browne’s impeccable details and pencil strokes truly bring the characters to life. The exhibition is filled with paintings, murals, sculptures and interactive activities. Children excitedly hug a cute gorilla figure dressed as Superman, as mothers busily take photos. There’s also a small library filled with Browne’s books near the end of the exhibition where children and adults of all ages can enjoy a short read. The best part, however, is watching the groups of small children interact with the works, sometimes looking afraid, sometimes confused and sometimes wanting to just make friends, filling one with a sense of nostalgia for one’s childhood. As Browne has said: “Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older.”

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