Ga ga meets Dada: Fine art for toddlers
This is positive news indeed, methinks. Maybe parents needn't go through that all-too-common artless abyss during the busy child-rearing years of their lives. Culture and kids can coexist.
I made some artwork for my niece and nephew when they were born, and even as babies they seemed to be drawn to the colours and textures. They may be small, but kids have their fingers on the pulse of the contemporary art world.
Forget Miami Basel - one of the hottest art markets these days is new parents. Superhero and cartoon prints just don't match the minimalist designer furniture that dominates the modern nursery, so visually conscious parents are buying original works to fit.
For artists, the baby business supplements their earnings and connects them with clients who may be commissioning art for the first time. For parents, it's a way to dip their toe into real art and expose Junior to the power of aesthetics at a young age. And Disney remains the anti-symbol.
"In the last two years, I've seen a huge rise in the number of people shopping for stuff that is not Disney," says Sara Fillmore, a co-owner of Toronto's Planet Kid, which stocks various artists' works at prices up to $500.
For Ms. Burton, the works of Ms. Moutrey, priced from $250 to $350 for a series, are sweet enough to denote a child's space, but could easily be hung elsewhere in the house. Though she and her husband are budding art collectors, this was the first art they had commissioned.
While artists and parents say that paintings for children are more than chic decor, apart from playing identify-the-piglet or name-the-colours, does it make any real difference to a kid? Or is it just another big-ticket item to add to the already-crowded baby registry?
Ms. Moutrey, who showcases her work at Toronto's Baby on the Hip and online at Modernartforchildren.com, says the visceral impact of real art isn't lost on children.
"You can see the hand work," she says, adding that art for kids accounts for about half of her sales. "You might even see a fingerprint, a brushstroke. You can see it's original. A kid deserves that."
For many parents, buying art for kids can be a baby step on the way to collecting art for themselves.
The nursery is seen as a low-pressure starting point.
"For their living room, they might have a thought about the impact of the piece: Is it a showstopper? Am I showcasing this in my living room?" says Toronto artist Sarah Merry. "They may put more pressure on themselves."
Still, artists and retailers say parents shouldn't throw out their aesthetic principles: Don't buy anything you don't love. Don't buy anything because you think it will appreciate in value. Pick it because it fits with your parenting vision, they say.