THIS IS NOT A TOY: An Exploration of Urban Vinyl as Design and Art Form
Pharrell Williams Guest Curates First Large-Scale Designer Toy Exhibition
at the Design Exchange
Photo Credit: Terry Richardson
On February 7th, 2014, Canada's Design Museum, the Design Exchange (DX) launches the world's first ever large-scale exhibition dedicated to urban vinyl as contemporary art. On display until May 18th 2014, visitors dive headfirst into the realm of designer "toys" as the Exhibition Hall is
transformed into a life-size dream world, filled with figurines ranging
from tiny trinkets to enormous free-standing pieces. World-renowned
international works, including some from the collaborations and personal
collection of singer, songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams, beg for examination and exploration.
personifies this century's renaissance man. His influence on music,
fashion, design and contemporary art is profound. From penning and
performing 2013's hottest songs to the furniture he designed for
Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery, to his BBC/Ice Cream streetwear, he is truly
ubiquitous. But it was his amorous relationship with urban vinyl and
contemporary art that precipitated this collaboration with the DX... I
am thrilled to host another first for the Design Exchange, Canada's
Design Museum." - Shauna Levy, President of the DX
This Is Not A Toytakes
its name from the disclaimer found on packaging for objects geared to
adults or which might be harmful to young children - they may be called
toys, but they are not intended for play. With roots in late 1980s
graffiti culture, the subversive and cult-like art form of urban vinyl
is as rebellious as it is fun. Lying at the intersection
of fine art, marketing, pop culture, product and graphic design, toys
are highly collectible objects for a post-Pop world, often selling from
hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
PLAY & EXPERIENCE
This Is Not A Toy, conceived and co-curated by John Wee Tom, co-founder of the Templar Hotel, with DX Associate Curator, Sara Nickleson and American music and fashion icon, Pharrell Williams, features works that demonstrate conceptual sophistication, rigour and execution.
L to R: Sushi & Octo by Huck Gee; False Friends by Coarse; Superflat Museum by Takashi Murakami; Passage by Coarse
Urban vinyl in numbers:
1,000 - the original release price, in dollars, of Yoshitomo Nara's Sleepless Nights Sitting in 2007
50,000 - the Buy It Now price, in dollars, on eBay for Yoshitomo Nara's Sleepless Nights Sitting
26,000 - the number of diamonds and gems that cover seven white, yellow and rose forms of Pharrell's everyday essentials, as part of The Simple Things: the six foot sculpture created by Takashi Murakami, Pharrell Williams and Jacob the Jewelerin 2009
1998 - generally recognized as year zero of the urban vinyl scene
500 - the number of three inch production Kidrobot Dunnys - every single edition produced - that will be assembled behind a glassed-in display wall for This Is Not A Toy
13 - the number of designer toys acquired in 2008 by the Museum of Modern Art for their permanent collection
8 - the height in feet of a monumental AD-AT sculpture to be unveiled by Bill McMullen, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the original release of his Star Wars AD-AT Walker X Adidas Shelltoe shoe mash-up toy
3 - the number of larger-than-life plush pieces from DOMAthat will be at the DX, including Master Control (left - a gang of four giant creatures); Stupid Tank (middle
- a stuffed tank with a long cannon that can be tied in knots and
wrapped around fixtures, people, architecture and columns); and Carne (right - a butcher shop-style display of hanging stuffed toy meat cuts)
are toys in name only. They play with perceptions, imagination and
expectations of what a toy is. They lure you in with their design and
personality, touching on a memory from your childhood or some other
intuitive emotion while revealing - or concealing - their true nature.
You don't need an art history degree or design background to appreciate
these small sculptures - everyone 'gets' them because of their
accessible aesthetic qualities. But unlike ordinary toys, they also have
something for the sophisticated designer or art critic because of their
underlying, subliminal messages. They're just cool - for kids, adults,
jaded teens, hipsters, grandparents, fashionistas, musicians, designers,
artists and culture hounds alike." - John Wee Tom, Exhibition Initiator and Co-Curator
screens and projections will accompany the displays, showcasing the
development of the movement by comparing contemporary works. Expect
interviews with designers along with related fashion and music content
that complement the culture.
ARTISTS & DESIGNERS
popularity beginning in Japan and Hong Kong, the movement has travelled
west and this medium of creative expression has attracted prominent
artists from around the world. The designs created within this realm
range dramatically, from representations of renowned fashion designers
like Vivienne Westwood to (pop-culture icons from Star Wars to the work of artists from all disciplines and backgrounds).
heavyweights inject the show with iconic characters and highly charged
pieces. Works by New York-based graffiti-turned-painting-and-sculpture
artist Brian Donnelly, known as KAWS,
(provide the axis for critical discourse on the accessibility of art,
art as consumer product and the positioning of so-called lowbrow art
within the contemporary art context). FriendsWithYou,
a fine art collaborative of Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III, aim
to spread the positive message of Magic, Luck, and Friendship™ through
colourful paintings, sculpture, large-scale experiential installations,
public playgrounds, and more.
contemporary artists are creating products without compromising their
vision or body of work. The toy may come first but it doesn't take long
before fans are attending gallery openings of new sculpture and
painting. These small objects welcome people into an art world that they
once felt had no place for them." - Sara Nickelson, DX Associate Curator
Designer toys are made in limited editions, the best often scooped up by collectors at record prices. This Is Not A Toy aims to highlight these coveted pieces, otherwise only viewable in private homes by friends and family. Contributors include Pharrell Williams with his The Simple Things, Canadian fashion icon Jeanne Beker, owner of Toronto's 'Lost and Found' Jonathan Elias,Nicolas Caldasfrom Puerto Rico, and co-curator, John Wee Tom aka Johnnyvinyl.
With a goal of raising $75,000 from November 26th to December 26th, 2013, this is the first time that a crowd-funding platform has been used to raise funds for an exhibition of this scale by a public institution in Canada. The Kickstarterplatform
was chosen because of its metrics and demographics: its audience
comprises the very same tech-savvy, social-media hungry, pop-culture
vulture audience with a taste for the new that are typically fans and
collectors of urban vinyl.
A giant glass structure will be designed to house more than 100 blank Kidrobot Munnys,
each toy representing one person who has donated to the exhibition's
Kickstarter campaign at the $500 and $1,000 tiers. Over the run of the
four month exhibition, visitors will have a turn to shoot a paint ball
gun at the group, creating a continuously-changing design. At the end of
the exhibition, each unique figure will be sent to their respective
donor - the Kickstarter reward created for supporters of the exhibition
BY visitors of the exhibition along with curators Sara Nickleson and
John Wee Tom with interactivity artists Eliot Callahan and Andrew
At the next donation tier ($1,500), a component of the rewards package includes one of 10 custom 18" Munny designs,
created by Canada's top designers and architects, as listed above. The
first person to donate at this level will receive the first pick of the
custom Munnys to take home, with the other nine donors following suit.
DESIGN EXCHANGE (DX): EXPERIENCE DESIGN AT CANADA'S DESIGN MUSEUM
in 1994, the Design Exchange (DX) is Canada's only museum dedicated
exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and preservation of
design heritage. At a crossroads of multiple disciplines, from furniture
and architecture to graphics and fashion, DX exhibitions and talks are
curated to reflect the popular zeitgeist and contemporary culture, while
demonstrating the relevancy and importance of design to everyday life.
Under the leadership of President, Shauna Levy, and a renewed strategic
vision beginning March 2012, the DX has hosted renowned traveling
exhibitions from prestigious cultural institutions across the globe,
including Stefan Sagmeister's The Happy Show from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and the Christian Louboutin retrospective from Design Museum London. Educating
and awareness-building from its downtown Toronto location in the
historic and original Toronto Stock Exchange building, the non-profit
charity attracts thousands of visitors of all ages each year.
Kathryn Darden is a mentor for a growing international team of entrepreneurs. As a journalist she writes arts & entertainment and skin care articles for several online publications including Christian Activities and Examiner. She is an Executive Consultant with Rodan + Fields Dermatologists.
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