Little N has an eye for Mickey Mouse. She doesn’t really know who Mickey Mouse is. She hasn’t seen the cartoons: she doesn’t know they exist. She doesn’t even know what a cartoon is. But she can spot the character everywhere: a comics store ad sticking out from the side of a building, the cover of a magazine, a sticker, a keychain, a pair of shoes with some kind of black & white MM design, a backpack with flappy pieces of fabric on the sides and a round nose in the middle of the small front pocket, a phone cover, etc. The level of abstraction seems to matter very little. She just sees it, whenever it is available.

Except for… this:

Gottfried Helnwein  Pink Mouse 2, 2016  ALBERTINA, Wien © Gottfried Helnwein  Bildrecht Wien, 2024

Gottfried Helnwein Pink Mouse 2, 2016 © Gottfried Helnwein

There’s lots of posters and billboards throughout the city advertising the Albertina exhibition, but she never said anything about it. She never joyously pointed it out, as she always does in so many other cases. It must have something very inhibiting, maybe even scary at some deep level. Maybe that’s what the artist intended: to strip the cartoon character of its identity and make it something else completely. If that’s the case, he undoubtedly succeeded.