Designer Toy Story
Monday, June 16th, 2014
By Margot Brody
Remember the maniacal excitement you felt upon bursting into the toy store as a kid? Seriously, was there anything better? Well, probably not, but we may have found something that’s close enough.
The folks at the Design Exchange museum in Toronto have tapped into their playful side to present This Is Not a Toy, the first ever large-scale exhibition of designer toys. But as the name suggests, these quirky objects are not mere playthings.
The show celebrates the cool, madcap world of urban vinyl, a global art and design movement that has been gaining speed since the late-1990s. And though the cult-like genre remains relatively unexamined by the mainstream, many designer toys regularly sell upwards of several thousand dollars.
Design Exchange’s massive showcase is co-curated by singer, songwriter, and big-name producer Pharrell Williams, and features world- renowned limited-edition collectibles from an impressive roster of international artists and designers. Williams, a long-time fan of urban vinyl, donated works from his personal collection, some of which are products of his own collaborations.
“The Simple Things” is the title of one such project Williams did with the prolific Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Murakami’s cartoon-inspired six-foot sculpture of an open-mouthed head contains everyday objects that Williams considers essential in his own day-to-day life. These common items, such as a can of Pepsi and a sneaker, are encrusted with a total of 26,000 diamonds and gems.
Another major draw for fans of the eccentric art form is the exhibition’s three larger-than-life plush pieces from hip Argentina-based designer brand DOMA, including a butcher-shop-style display of hanging stuffed toy meat cuts entitled “Carne.”
And, of course, no urban vinyl super-show would be complete without an appearance by celeb-status designer KidRobot’s signature “Dunny,” the rabbit-like collectibles that are perhaps one of the most recognizable designer toys ever manufactured. In fact, 500 three-inch Dunnys—representing every edition ever produced—will be assembled behind a glass-display wall inside the exhibition.
With this massive meeting of all-star designer toys from around the globe, This Is Not a Toy proves that kids don’t get to have all the fun.
Images, top to bottom: Chompers by KAWS for Be@rbrick, Astro Boy by KAWS for Medicom x Original Fake, "Carne" by DOMA, Dunny by KidRobot, Mr. DOB by Takashi Murakami. Images courtesy of Design Exchange museum.