Hi, Barbie! See Inside the Design Museum’s New Show Dedicated to the Iconic Doll

Source Credit:  Content and images from Artnet News.  Read the original article - https://news.artnet.com/art-world/hi-barbie-design-museum-2510188

The Mattel toy is celebrating its 65th anniversary.

1992 Totally Hair Barbie. Petra Rajnicova for the Design Museum

To commemorate the 65th anniversary of the world’s most famous doll, London’s Design Museum has opened Barbie: The Exhibition, showcasing over 250 objects related to the evolution of the iconic and at times controversial Mattel toy, including over 180 iterations of the Barbie doll herself.

The show follows in the wake of the veritable Barbiemania that surrounded Greta Gerwig’s hit live-action movie, which starred Margot Robbie as the titular character, accompanied by a charismatic Ryan Gosling as her boyfriend-cum-sidekick, Ken.

a display case features a vintage barbie doll wearing a striped swimsui, against a pink background

Number 1 Barbie, the Design Museum, London
July 2024. Photo © Jo Underhill.

Some of the show’s highlights include a 1959 first edition Barbie wearing a striped swimsuit and distinct ponytail, known to collectors as the ‘Number 1 Barbie’, and a one-of-a-kind prototype of a 1968 Talking Barbie, with a transparent torso to showcase the voice mechanism.

a gallery with a pink floor and silver foil walls features mannequins in various fashions

Barbie at the Design Museum, London. © Jo Underhill.

Other best-selling dolls are on display, such as the ‘surfer girl’ Sunset Malibu Barbie from 1971 and the groundbreaking Day to Night Barbie from 1985, which focused on the character as the archetypal ‘have it all’ career woman. The exhibition also features two examples of the 1992 Totally Hair Barbie, the best-selling Barbie of all time thanks to its long, crimped locks, with over 10 million dolls sold globally.

Barbie at the Design Museum, London

Museumgoers can also experience Barbie’s evolution in terms of both appearance and the lifestyle she embodies, reflecting societal shifts and questions of diversity and representation. Her cultural impact is celebrated too, from the revolutionary idea of a glamorous and adult (as opposed to babyish) doll settled on by Mattel founder Ruth Handler, to her influence on fashion, art and music, including Vogue covers, a collaboration with Andy Warhol, homages from Billie Eilish and more besides.

an exhibition gallery with pink walls, a green floor, and pastel shade pedestals featuring barbie dolls

Barbie at the Design Museum, London. Photo © Jo Underhill.

The Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti, the first ever female commander of the International Space Station, brought an astronaut Barbie doll in her likeness with her to the space station in 2022, where it spent 6 months orbiting the earth. Christoforetti hoped that videos of the spacesuit-clad doll spinning in zero-gravity would inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers. The doll makes its first public debut at the Design Museum.

A cardboard dolls house room featuring yellow walls, a bed and a pink sofa

1962 Barbie Dream House. © Mattel, Inc.

The exhibition also celebrates Barbie’s friends, including Midge, Christie, Teresa, and Skipper, and dedicates a section to Ken, showcasing his evolution since his introduction in 1961. The architecture and design that has built Barbie’s world – in a specific shade of patented pink – is also commemorated, particularly the Dream House. An early example, which is modernist in style and made from cardboard, as opposed to the better known sugary shades of plastic, is also on display.

Barbie: The Exhibition at the Design Museum in London, runs through February 23, 2025. 

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Source Credit:  Content and images from Artnet News.  Read the original article - https://news.artnet.com/art-world/hi-barbie-design-museum-2510188