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Pikachu Garden And a Ruthless Critique of Consumerism

Remember way back in the summer of 2016? Barack Obama was president, and the world was obsessed with Pokemon Go. In many ways, it was a simpler time. As New York digs itself out from the blizzard of 2017,Castor Gallery invites visitors to escape the winter blues with Michael Pybus’s Pikachu Orchid Garden, a summery art installation full of cuddly stuffed versions of the undisputed star of the Pokémon franchise.

The bloom may be off the Pokémon Go these days—although I still occasionally spot museums advertising the presence of Pokéstops on site—but relaxing in a plushy, albeit commercialized Pikachu oasis sounds like it could be just the sort of soothing experience art lovers are in need of. And Pybus isn’t just jumping on the bandwagon: He’s worked with the character for over a decade.

The work, titled In 3D the basil never wilts, is part of Pybus’s exhibition inspired by global brands. Everything in the garden was purchased at IKEA, which has bragged about using CGI to create three quarters of its catalogue’s imagery. (The show’s title is derived from a quote from the company.)

As it becomes nearly impossible to tell the difference between real and computer generated imagery, the global reach of brands such as IKEA and Pokémon extends further and further. The exhibition statement describes Pikachu as “an icon of consumerist thirst, engineered to never be fully quenched”—appropriate given the game’s “Gotta catch ’em all” tag line.