Kaiju Lecture at Morikami Museum Florida 2010

Kaiju – The History and Art of Japanese Vinyl Toys, is a museum exhibit at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida. The museum established in 1977, celebrates the Japanese culture and also the history of Japanese settlers in this area going back to 1903. The exhibition ( which I covered in a previous blog post ) features the collection of my friend and fellow Japanese toy collector, Jim Levy. Although a room and a half are filled with Jim’s toys, that’s only about 25% of his collection at home.. ha-ha .. a true collector, indeed ! Both Jim and I were invited to give a talk about Kaiju toys and of course I was very honored to do so.

The lecture was to be on a wednesday night, Oct 6th … so the day before I flew out to Ft Lauderdale, Florida …

Jim picked me up at the airport and we drove thru the ink black night, a good 70 minutes to where I would be staying … upon arriving Mini Captain Maxx made friends with these Flamingos 😉

Both Jim and his girlfriend Doreen were such gracious hosts to me .. and there was this sign board in my room to greet me (!) complete with a “eye” to keep watch over me ! I felt right at home .. but it was late and after a bit of toy talk was time for sleep..

so the next morning is the day of our lecture … I have to say I did not prepare anything .. I guess it’s not really my style and I knew we would be showing slides which would allow me to just talk ( well maybe ramble ) about Kaiju, collecting and toy making … Was I nervous ? Hmmm, oddly not really .. for those who do not know, this is what i do as a living.. make toys, collect them, do art about them … I do not have any other job .. so, in a way I’m just talking about what I do or live 24/7 😉

Also being as we had both Jim and myself on stage I felt it would be good to have both of us talking or conversing, as opposed to one guy gets up , blah-blah, sits down and the next guy gets up .. might be too dry ? Well anyways the plan was for both Jim and I to interject comments or whatever as both of us talked …

Ok after a quick lunch, we got in the car and speed off to the Morikami Museum and arrived about 3:00 pm. The main building is a beautiful classical Japanese design that blends right into the surrounding gardens.

I was not able to walk around the main garden areas due to time constraints, sad to say, but this koi pond was relaxing to look at.
We were greeted by Wendy Lo and Reiko Nishioka and I took a quick look at the Kaiju exhibit in person…

I know, no photography ! .. but had to take this picture 😉 Very impressed with the exhibit over all, the displays were awesome .. but for me the informational placards really put the toys and the TV or movie series they were from into context.

before i knew it was time to set up in the auditorium …

a nice sized room … only a few hours away from our presentation!

after setting up, Jim practiced a bit on stage ;-P but I was good to go ! Reiko and Tom Gregersen ( who picked the items in the show as well as researched the descriptions ) took Jim and myself out to a yummy dinner .. I had a honey glazed Salmon salad 😉 We quickly returned to the museum and from that point on I have to say was a big blur for me and I’m sure Jim too ! I talked to a few folks and was amazed to learn some came from as far Orlando, which was a 3.5 hour drive !
We peeked into the auditorium and it was filling up fast…with minutes to go a local newspaper photographer grab us to take pictures and we were rushed back to the stage to begin …

Reiko began with opening remarks and introduced the Cultural Attache for the Florida Japanese Consulate who briefly talked about how he remembered having Kaiju and Ultraman toys as a young child.

I had planned to do a Ustream, but kinda hard when I had to be up on stage 😉 oh well, both Jim and I did our best to ramble our way through the presentation .. I think we did a good job at least to expose those who had no clue about these toys or the process … before i knew it Reiko was telling us to wrap it up 😉 ha-ha .. we had a brief Q&A, and after was able to talk with more folks .. finally as the museum was closing I did a quick video interview with FanBase radio … I’m kicking myself as we have no photos of us with Wendy, Reiko, Tom, or Jamie ;-( We bid all a farewell.. I for one had a blast and was great to meet, talk with and hopefully show people about Kaiju collecting and the amazing craftsmen in Japan who still practice this art form.

I have to give a huge Thank You to everyone at the Morikami Museum, for their graciousness and support , the Florida Japanese Consulate, and a very special Thank You to former Cultural Attache Koichi-san, who actually got all this started about 2 years ago when Jim and I both had dinner with him and talked about Kaiju to him. 😉

With only a few hours sleep, Jim drove me to the airport .. I went straight to the gate, as they announced the boarding of my flight (!) ha, kinda cutting it close but made it and five and half hours later was back in San Francisco.
The exhibit at the Morikami Museum will be up till October 17th, 2010.
As I look back at this experience, it’s really cemented in my mind that Kaiju, and Japanese toys are on their way to being appreciated and celebrated as works of art and craftsmanship in museums around the world.

***Thank you to these collectors for their photos in this blog:
Jordan Leitner photo – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jordan_leitner/
Bryan Edwards photo – http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=2222811&id=25102916

About toykarma

Over the years Mark Nagata has collected thousands of toys and a fair amount of titles. The man behind San Francisco-based Max Toy Company is widely known as: Toy Collector. Illustrator. Magazine Founder/Publisher. Toy Designer. Artist. Author. Husband. Father. But the one description that might fit best is an unofficial one – Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. In the Japanese-inspired art and toy area, as well as throughout the larger toy collecting community, Mark is welcomed and recognized for his personal passion and commitment to supporting artists all around the world and the unique works they create. Beginning as a collector in his youth, Mark has had for years a keen eye for great art and a personal interest in collecting that he has spread through a variety of outlets. Trained at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Mark honed his skills working for himself and for some of the most notable businesses in the country. As a freelance commercial illustrator, he completed works for such prominent companies as Lucasfilms, DC Comics, Hasbro Toys, IBM, Sony, and numerous advertising and design firms, both national and international. Mark’s colorful style graces over 40 cover paintings for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book series – Give Yourself Goosebumps. After hundreds of assignments, Mark made the decision to move in another direction, and that choice has led to whole new career as a successful businessman. For four years, the owner of one of the largest Ultraman toy collections in the world co-published Super 7 Magazine showcasing the finest in Japanese toy collecting. “I’d been collecting Japanese toys all along and suddenly realized it would be cool to have a magazine of some type devoted to them,” Nagata says. Mark’s devotion to presenting collectors with a selection of original figures inspired by classic Japanese toys from the 1960s and ‘70s as well as new versions of licensed Japanese characters is at the heart of Max Toy Company. Named for his son, Max Toys specializes in custom and limited editions of “kaiju” (Japanese monsters) toys and artwork. Many of the original toys produced are hand painted by Mark, a tradition that goes back to Japanese toy makers of the past. “Since our target is the soft vinyl Japanese toy collector, which is a very small niche, our runs of toys can be extremely small,” Mark says. “Runs range from 500 pieces of one toy to just one for a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind custom figure.” Through Max Toys, Mark has taken great pains to widen the reach of his two passions – toys and art. He played a significant part in the development of the first group kaiju show in the United States. Held at the Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, Illinois in 2007, the “Toy Karma” Show featured detailed work from artists from Japan, the U.S. and South America. Participants marveled at the custom-painted toys and art on display. “Toy Karma” led to Mark being asked to be one of the artists spotlighted in the “Beyond Ultraman: Seven Artists Explore the Vinyl Frontier” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The October 2007 show, held jointly with the Los Angeles Toy, Doll and Amusement Museum, marked the first time – in a museum setting – that the influence of Japanese toys on California artists was explored. The exhibit featured more than 30 of Mark’s original paintings, toys and a selection of his vintage toy collection. Mark continued to be at the forefront as interest in Japanese-inspired art and toys expanded in 2008. Prestigious art houses Philips De Pury and Christie’s in New York and London sold Mark’s hand-painted custom kaiju toys in its auctions, spreading this unique art and toy movement into new and uncharted areas of the art world. In 2009, Mark once again took his love of toys and art overseas this time to a receptive and welcoming audience in Tokyo, Japan. Here, Mark curated the “Kaiju Comrades” Art Show, once again bringing together artists from various aspects of the kaiju toy realm in this first-of-its-kind toy art show. The following year found Mark in Barcelona, Spain co-curating with Emilio Garcia “Kaiju Attack,” the European country’s first kaiju art show. As the growth of kaiju art and toys increases worldwide, Mark continues in his unofficial role of Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. He has written and had his artwork and toy designs included in several books and magazines, both domestic and international. In 2010, Mark served as guest lecturer on kaiju and the toy-making process at the Morikami Museum in Florida. The San Francisco resident and his art can also be spotted in the first volume of the “ToyPunks” DVD and the “Toys R Us” DVD, while the video for the number one song by Owl City “Fireflies” featured Mark’s popular Kaiju Eyezon character. During this same time period, Mark has spearheaded the “Toy Karma 2” and “Kaiju Comrades 2” shows and has plans for future shows both in the U.S. and overseas. “Max Toys allows me to produce original artwork, new toys and work directly with a lot of talented artists,” Mark says. “Max Toy is a synthesis of toys and art, both life-long passions.”
This entry was posted in art toys, bullmark, custom toys, florida, Japanese toys, kaiju, mark nagata, Max Toy Company, museum. Bookmark the permalink.

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