The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has recalled one of its store’s popular holiday gift items, a series of snow globes designed by Japanese contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara, because they “can crack or fracture, posing a laceration hazard”.
According to a posting on the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website, around 1,915 of the cutesy Little Wanderer snow globes, which retailed for $85 each while they were on sale last November via the MoMA Design Store’s physical locations and website, have been sold. Buyers are eligible for a full refund, and are urged to “stop using and discard the recalled snow globes”. A recall notice on the MoMA Design Store’s website adds that it “has received 39 reports of the snow globe cracking or fracturing. No injuries have been reported.”
The Little Wanderer snow globes are typical of Nara’s iconography, which deploys anime-inflecte kawaii characters who are endearing but also enigmatic or even menacing. They feature a figure based on his 1999 sculpture series Little Pilgrims (Night Walking), an were available with a blue, red or yellow figure. Each was positioned inside a spherical glass container atop a wood base.
Perversely, the recall of Nara’s Little Wanderer snow globes may make them all the more sought-after among collectors, fueling a secondary market for the delightful but dangerous gifts. As of this writing, two eBay listings for complete sets of all three snow globes are offering them for more than $1,000, a significant markup from the $255 it would have cost to buy them at MoMA in November. (Other secondary market sites, including Artsy and 1stDibs, appear to have removed all Little Wanderer listings.)
And while these particular Nara snow globe characters have met an ignoble fate, they are hardly his only experiments with the form. An online catalogue raisonné maintained by the artist’s foundation lists three other snow globe products by the artist that remain in circulation.