Phoenix Art Museum will soon welcome two new exhibits celebrating Barbie and all things pink. Opening February 14 in collaboration with Illusion Projects and Mattell, Inc., Barbie®: A Cultural Icon will be the first presentation of the major exhibition in Arizona. Barbie’s exhibit will be complemented by The Power of Pink, an exhibition that explores the complex history of the color that is normally identified with the iconic Barbie doll.
Barbie®: A Cultural Icon, created by Illusion Projects and Mattel, Inc., looks over Barbie’s global impact and history, spanning over 60 years. The display will showcase more than 250 vintage dolls, all 22 original ensemble outfits, life-sized fashion designs, exclusive interviews and narrative sections that Barbie has created through style trends, careers and identities.
“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. “As an institution dedicated to the research, scholarship, and exhibition of fashion design and one of only seven art museums in the United States with an active collecting focus, we remain dedicated to presenting exhibitions that offer new and exciting explorations of this incredible artform, including the intersections of couture and popular culture. We are excited to provide our visitors with a unique opportunity to examine Barbie within this context through Barbie®: A Cultural Icon.”
The exhibit begins with the origin story of the doll and goes through influential areas such as the Space Age; Christie’s creation, the first Black Barbie; the arrival of Ken and the creation of the Barbie Dreamhouse™. As the exhibition progresses, attendees will dive into the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and today, with decade-themed designs and, specifically, the 1990s presentation of diverse Barbies that range in ethnicities, careers and body types. The 2000s section spotlights the diversification of Barbies and connects the dolls to fashion trends, identities and perspectives. Exclusive interviews will be shown on five custom-made Barbie Dreamhouse TVs from Barbie designers as well as five unique photo opportunities for attendees to interact with.
The Power of Pink, an exhibit drawn exclusively from the museum’s fashion-design collection, will complement the Barbie®: A Cultural Icon exhibition. Curated by Helen Jean, the Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design at Phoenix Art Museum, this exhibit will explore and celebrate the history of the complex, popular and controversial color and its impact on fashion and culture.
Norman Norell, “Mermaid” evening dress, 1960-1972. Silk jersey embroidered with sequins. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Kelly Ellman.
The exhibit will follow the color pink, a color typically associated with female expression, through history and trace its evolution and role in fashion. Beginning in 17th-century France, pink was worn by men and women as a status, luxury and power symbol. The exhibit follows the color to 1940s North America, where the color was gendered by the efforts of mass-marketers who assigned pink to girls and blue to boys.
The Power of Pink encourages thoughtful examination of the color and its influence on designers like Christian Dior, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent and many more. The exhibit will hold more than 10 garments and ensembles for viewing.
“Our presentation of Barbie®: A Cultural Icon offers a timely opportunity for us to draw upon our incredible fashion-design collection to explore Barbie’s favorite color,” says Jean, who curated The Power of Pink. “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.”
Christian Dior, Suit jacket, 1952. Wool and velvet. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Donald D. Harrington
The Phoenix Art Museum will also host a Valentine’s Day party on Wednesday, February 14, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to celebrate the openings of Barbie®: A Cultural Icon and The Power of Pink. The event will include a pink carpet with photo opportunities, a DJ, complimentary sweet treats, valentine-making presented by Cut+Paste PHX, a scavenger hunt, a library pop-up, a no-host bar, specialty drinks, and more. Tickets to the event include full access to both exhibits being celebrated along with the exhibit Amalia Mesa Bains: Archaeology of Memory. Tickets to the event are $30 for adults and $15 for children, ages 6 to 17.
To purchase tickets to the event, visit phxart.org/prettyinpink. Learn more about the exhibits at phxart.org.
Photos courtesy Phoenix Art Museum. Barbie images courtesy of Illusion Projects, Inc. and Mattel Inc. © 2020 Mattel. All Rights Reserved, Photos: Jason Harper Photography.