The curated exhibit collection will feature over 250 vintage dolls, life-size fashion designs, exclusive interviews and narrative sections. Exploring key aspects of the 60+ year history of Barbie at Mattel, this exhibit will showcase style trends, careers and identities Barbie has embodied throughout the decades.
“For generations, Barbie has been a popular and prominent figure in our contemporary culture, reflecting the evolution of gender, identity, beauty, empowerment, and success. Often influencing and shifting societal norms in tangible ways, Barbie has also been in step with trends throughout fashion history,” says Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum.
In collaboration with Illusion Projects and Mattel, Inc., this will be the first presentation of the exhibit in Arizona. Karan Feder, costume historian and exhibit curator, will tell the history of the iconic Barbie character from 1959 to the present day in the exhibit. Visitors will walk through Barbie’s evolution from a children’s toy to a global icon.
The exhibit will feature six sections. The first tells the origin story of Barbie, focusing on key events and outfits, such as the first Black Barbie, the original Dreamhouse and the introduction of Ken. Next, guests will journey to see Barbie in iconic styles from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. As visitors walk through the exhibit, they will see the diversity of Barbie shift to include a wider range of ethnicities, body types and careers.
Phoenix Art Museum will also be showing The Power of Pink, an exhibit exploring the history and associations of the color often associated with feminine expression. Visitors will get to experience the evolution of the color’s role in fashion from its origin in 17th-century France to 20th-century marketing efforts.
“Just like Barbie, the color pink sparks conversations, and just like Barbie, pink is having its day in the spotlight. We look forward to considering the history, politics, and science behind this popular yet polarizing color,” says Helen Jean, the Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Both Barbie: A Cultural Icon and The Power of Pink will be on view from Feb. 14 to July 7, 2024. Admission to the museum is free for members, children five and under and Maricopa County Community College students. To see full pricing for general admission and hours, visit phxart.org/visit.
Photos courtesy Phoenix Art Museum