Drawing on the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and Mattel’s archives, this exhibition provides two possible insights into “Barbie’s lives”: for children by evoking the pure jubilation of a universally known toy, and for adults by placing this emblematic figure in her historical and sociological contexts since 1959. 700 Barbie dolls are displayed on 1500 square meters, next to works from the collections of the Museum such as dolls and gowns, but also works by contemporary artists, and newspapers, photos and video that contextualize the ‘lives’ of Barbie.
More than just a toy, Barbie has mirrored a culture and its evolution. She began by embodying the “American Way of Life” before adapting to social, political and cultural changes and taking on a more universal dimension. Evolving with every new modern comfort, embracing new causes and challenging stereotypes, she has been loathed for her embodiment of the idealized woman and yet, always autonomous and independent, she has adopted all the new dreams and ambitions of contemporary life.
Several of the fabrication secrets behind Barbie’s silhouettes, hairstyles and outfits are revealed in the exhibition, which features models and drawings by those who have masterminded Barbie’s success. Her popularity stems from her ability to adapt to changing times by constantly renewing herself yet always remaining the same. This success can be explained by continuous exchanges with popular culture. Ever since she was created, she has also inspired artists such as Andy Warhol and others who have widely manipulated her image. Many couturiers have crossed paths with Barbie the « fashionista », and imagined the most extravagant and elegant outfits for her. The exhibition will feature several of these unique creations, by Paco Rabanne, Thierry Mugler, Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier, Maison Martin Margiela and Christian Louboutin. To complement Barbie’s wardrobe, the museum will display several of the most emblematic pieces in its collection to reflect the evolving fashions.
- Barbie aérobics instructor,1984 © Mattel
- Barbie astronaut, 1965 © Mattel
- Barbie présidential candidate, 2000 © Mattel
- Barbie surgeon, 1973 © Mattel
- Dior Barbie, for the Bar’s tailleur 50th anniversary, 1997 © Mattel
- Barbie businesswoman, 1963 © Mattel
- Barbie flight attendant, 1961 © Mattel
- Picture from Barbie’s Instagram account @Barbistyle, 2015 © Mattel
- Andy Warhol, “Barbie”, 1985 © Mattel
- Barbie Diane Von Furstenberg, 2006 © Mattel
- Barbie Lagerfeld © Mattel
- Barbie Mad Men, 2010 © Mattel
- Barbie Oscar De la Renta, 1985 © Mattel