For the first time a French museum gives a tribute to the iconic doll of Mattel Barbie. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs shows her dimensional history on the basis of 700 dolls featured in the 1.500 square meter exhibition space. Accompanied by pieces of contemporary art such as Andy Warhol’s portrait of Barbie from 1986. For many of us a journey into childhood days.
What’s the story behind the most successful doll of all time? The first Barbie was produced in 1959, embodying a very minimalistic and clean version of this eclectic toy. A white swimsuit with black stripes, earrings, sunglasses and black mules. Of course this encouraged the buyers to add the rest of her wardrobe, so they could play with her different looks. And somehow she is a mirror of our time: As perfect and controversial her appearance may be on the one hand, on the other hand Barbie is a very modern incarnation of a feminist considering the things she does: Olympia champion, surgeon, astronaut, journalist, rock star. Apparently there is no profession which is unable for her to obtain – talking about equalities between men and women. As beautiful she is, sometimes this can be an obstacle for intelligent and successful women in order to be taken seriously in male domains. But Barbie still embodies both: embraces femininity and her brains.
And what about love? We all know that to a certain degree everyone is looking for his or her other half. Of course Mattel didn’t leave that part to chance and met the expectations of her younger fans by creating Ken in 1961. But apparently in Barbie’s world Ken is nothing but a companion, a friend. Not a dominant or decision-making figure. Simply because she can hold her own.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
107 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
runs until 18 September 2016
Andy Warhol: “Barbie” (1986)