Why are giant monkey, ‘punk’ chicken, ‘supersonic’ rabbit at High Museum?

The commenter on Facebook Live suggested that Spanish designer Jaime Hayon was wearing a romper during his visit to the High Museum recently.

Hayon’s tour of Sifly Piazza, where the High has installed “Merry Go Zoo,” four of Hayon’s giant anime-inspired creatures, was definitely a romp, as documented on social media.

Take a look at the AJC’s Facebook Live chat with the artist:

Three of the sleek, polyurethane sculptures can also spin, and children were clambering over them on a recent weekday. Hayon, a 42-year-old big kid, was happy to join in, and laughed as he pushed and twirled and hopped on board.

So, yes, there was romping. But the pale blue-and-green plaid shirt and matching shorts he was rocking were definitely not a romper. “Lately I’ve realized that I have to enjoy my life fully, yeah?” said Hayon, in his question-and-answer conversational style. “So I put this on as pajamas, and then I just get up.”

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This is a man who knows how to have fun. And that’s what he hopes his installation outside the High will bring to families who come to watch and play. If parents can sip a cold beverage on a sunny day and observe their children playing on a piece of modern art, that’s a win-win, Hayon said.

Jaime Hayon is a designer of housewares and furniture, but also a fine artist whose droll, cartoon-inspired sculptures and textiles are collected in museums. The High Museum has commissioned a second playscape of Hayon’s playful sculptures for its courtyard, and is also exhibiting this gallery of Hayon’s ceramics and textiles. BO EMERSON / BEMERSON@AJC.COM (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

So far, the High Museum has been winning in its campaign to make its outdoor space enjoyable. This is the second commission from the High for Hayon’s puckish oversized art. Last year, his abstract animal-shaped climbing structures, called “Tiovivo,” occupied this same space.

Previous installations included “Los Trompos,” a collection of 31 oversized spinning tops inside of which children (and adults) could climb, and “Mi Casa, Your Casa,” a subdivision of geometric houselike structures that echoed the High’s outdoor Lichtenstein sculpture, “House III.”

All together, the Sifly Piazza installations have attracted 450,000 visitors to the High’s courtyard.

“It’s a happy interaction,” Hayon said.

Some of these creatures are familiar. (Regulars at the High have seen his “Green Chicken,” a digitally smooth sculpture that is also a rocking horse, and will recognize a kinship between that curiosity and the “punk chicken” in the courtyard.)

Designer Jaime Hayon calls this yellow bird a “punk chicken.” CONTRIBUTED BY JONATHAN HILLYER (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Along with the chicken are a “supersonic rabbit,” a sort of pale sock monkey and a non-spinning shade structure. To three of these sculptures Hayon has added plinths, or pedestals, that spin, albeit slowly. “The plinth is the playful thing,” he said.

“Merry Go Zoo” is scheduled to stay at the High’s Sifly Piazza through Nov. 26.

The “Merry Go Zoo” figures in the courtyard of the High Museum are meant for play, and on a recent Friday, children could be seen pushing and twirling and riding on the structures. CONTRIBUTED BY JONATHAN HILLYER (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

In addition to the outdoor installation, the High is exhibiting a room full of Hayon’s outsized tapestries and stacked ceramic vessels called “Technicolor.” All were commissioned by the High to expand its collection of 21st-century design, and are on display in the Anne Cox Chambers Wing.

The room full of ceramics is not the sort of place where one should turn loose a rambunctious child. The piazza, on the other hand, is.

“It’s a place to feel alive, to have a good time,” Hayon said. “Some people get inspiration from suffering. I don’t. I feel like if I make something that is joyful and happy, I feel good about it. The things I do are to make people smile, not to make people sad. That’s for sure.”

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