Pop Life: Taking a trip to the National Gallery

by Barbara

I've been excited about the Pop Life: Art in a Material World exhibit at the National Gallery since they started advertising their search for identical twins to be part of one of the works of art. Somehow, though, the summer passed and we didn't go to the exhibit until recently. Luckily, the exhibit will be open until September 19th and you still have time to go.

I went with my six-year-old daughter, Reid, my mom and my 30-year-old niece and we all enjoyed ourselves. I asked Reid if she thought I should recommend that other moms take their kids and she said, “Yes! I am a kid and I liked it and so will they.”

Reid's favourite parts of the exhibit were the Andy Warhol pieces. He is her favourite artist right now, thanks to the Dropping in on Andy Warhol book and video we signed out from the library. She watched a bit of the Love Boat episode starring Andy Warhol, giving me time to read a bit more of the labels.

The piece featuring the twins – two young women playing cards when we were there – was more of a fascination to me than to Reid. When you're six, I guess you have less of an expectation about what will appear in a work of art. Reid enjoyed the room depicting anime art, especially the video of Kirsten Dunst singing “Turning Japanese”. The video is on YouTube but it is marked as possibly unsuitable for children. I didn't find it to be inappropriate, though.

We both liked Keith Haring's chalk drawing-like images. You can purchase items featuring his art right in the midst of the exhibit but it's a passive offering and the kids (probably) won't notice. Ashley Bickerton's “self portrait”, in which he presents himself through the logos of products he uses, was the springboard for a surprisingly good conversation about the things we use. I think Reid and I could do something like this at home. The other artists and their works provoked conversations as well. Reid didn't have any “they call that art?!” reactions but she did have some questions about what she saw and why it was included in the exhibit.

Admission is $15 for adults, $7 for youth 12-19 and kids under 12 are free. There are a few rooms with explicit artwork but these are well-signed and easily avoided.  There is a horse with something stabbed into it that isn't signed and you might want to be ready to avoid it or explain it.

There is a sign in the foyer indicating the cameras are banned in the gallery and there are many guards in the exhibit and so I took no pictures. The exhibit is visually powerful and I agree with Reid, kids will enjoy it. You may want to explore other galleries while you're at the National Gallery but don't be too ambitious. Good behaviour is tiring and you'll want your kids to be as eager to return as you will be.