‘this is not a toy’ exhibition co-curated by pharrell opens at the design exchange
photo by arash moallemi

 

 

 

 

this is not a toy guest curated by pharrell williams
design exchange, toronto, canada
february 7th – may 19th, 2014

 

in recognizing the rise in the production of designer toys — part merchandise, part art — canada’s design exchange (DX) has dedicated an entire exhibition to these types of pieces, enlisting contemporary cultural figure pharrell williams, an avid collector himself, to co-curate the show. in collaboration with instigator and co-curator john wee tom, and DX associate curator sara nickelson, the three have realized a presentation of work that highlights the practice of more than a dozen key artists and toy designers who have established a following in this creative and commercial genre. ‘this is not a toy’ is the first occasion whereby the vibrant sculptures, figurines, and paintings grouped in the collectible toys category are being displayed within the setting of a museum. 

 

drawing its namesake from the disclaimer often found on the packaging for objects that may be called toys, but aren’t meant to be played with, ‘this is not a toy’ is dedicated to exploring the notions surrounding the conceptual toy; something which lingers between a fine art and design object, and whose price ranges range from just a few dollars, to thousands.

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
‘better knowing’ by KAWS, 2013
afromosia wood
5 feet tall
collection of kaoru katsurgai
photo by arash moallemi

 

 

 

 

though ‘designer toys’ employ technical methods of mass production, they do so in a way that results in unique pieces and limited edition objects, typically associated with the art world. ‘this is not a toy’ aims at providing insight into how these vinyl toys are made and customized through interviews with such artists as KAWS, huck gee and frank kozik, along with stop-motion videos created by fans of kidrobot figures.

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
the gallery space is defined by bold patterns used to divide the exhibition into thematic areas
photo by arash moallemi

 

 

 

 

the scenography of the exhibition space has been conceived to compliment the humorous, sometimes dark, figures being presented, offering bold wall coverings featuring various patterns to help visually and thematically divide the gallery. visitors are invited to engage with ‘this is not a toy’ through a number of sensory experiences, as they are immersed into a vibrant world that is filled with music video and vinyl.  

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
paintings and figurines on display express the collectible toy genre
photo by arash moallemi

 

 

 

 

at the heart of the exhibition is a striking sculpture entitled ‘the simple things’, created by williams alongside artists takashi murkami and jacob arabo (AKA ‘jacob the jeweler’). the three-dimensional display is a fiberglass, metal and steel construction of a head that features a wide grin, reveling ordinary objects such as condiment bottles and soda cans, that are coated in jewels.

 

other works on view include: friendswithyou’s animated short film cloudy and custom rainbow vortex; misaki kawai’s tactile, comb-able animal-shaped fur paintings; and prized items from williams’ personal art collection, including ‘milo on rocking horse’ by japanese fashion label a bathing ape; [email protected] representations of his grammy-winning partners daft punk; and commissioned KAWS paintings that poke at pop culture, aptly named ‘KAWSBOB 3’ and ‘KURFS’ (crowd). local art and design shop, magic pony, presents pon pon pony jam, featuring multifarious characters in their envisioned natural environment from international artists devilrobots (JP), james jarvis (UK), junko mizuno (JP), michael lau (HK), nathan jurevicius (AU) and pete fowler (UK). this diverse group of creators is recognized as discernible pioneers within the designer toy field, communicating their visual philosophies through the unconventional medium of the art toy. other contributing artists include veteran neo-pop artist, yoshitomo nara, huck gee, coarse, frank kozik, and bill mcmullen.

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
the 3D sculptures are supplemented by video interviews and artworks
photo by arash moallemi

 

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
bold patterns on the walls and floor of the gallery complement the colorful works on show
photo by arash moallemi

 

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
‘the simple things’ by pharrell williams, takashi muakami and jacob arabo (aka ‘jacob the jeweler’)
photo by arash moallemi

 

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
‘the simple things’ detail
photo by arash moallemi

 

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
friendswithyou have a number of sculptural works being presented in the exhibition
photo by arash moallemi

 

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
‘rainbow vortex’ by friendswithyou
photo by arash moallemi

 

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
hundreds of collectible toy figurines are on display
photo by arash moallemi

 

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
yoshitomo nara’s pastel wearing children on display
photo by arash moallemi

 

design exchange this is not a toy designboom
‘gold mao bust’ by frank kozik
photo by arash moallemi