London’s Design Museum Will Dive Into Mattel’s Archives for a Major Barbie Exhibition in 2024

The exhibition is three years in the making and coincides with the 65th anniversary of the creation of the Barbie brand.

A 1962 Barbie Dreamhouse. Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc./Design Museum.

London’s Design Museum has been granted special access to Mattel’s Barbie archives in California for a new exhibition scheduled to open at the institution in July 2024. The announcement follows in the wake of “Barbiemania” inspired by this summer’s blockbuster Barbie movie.

While the Barbie doll is one of the most recognizable toys in the world, the pleasure of playing with Barbie is making use of her extensive accessories collection that includes iconic outfits, hot pink convertibles and of course Dreamhouses. That’s why the this exhibition will explore the story of Barbie through a design lens that encompasses fashion, architecture, furniture and even vehicle design.

“We look forward next year to displaying a whole range of eye-catching objects, some familiar but many never seen before, to showcase the evolution of design across the decades of Barbie’s world,” said Tim Marlow, director and CEO of the Design Museum.

According to the Design Museum, the exhibition has been three years in the making and coincides with the 65th anniversary of the creation of the Barbie brand. Curated by Danielle Thom, the show will map the Barbie legacy that started when Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler invented Barbie for her daughter, Barbara, in 1959.

The doll has long been a cultural touchstone, there has been a surge of interest in the toy in the aftermath of Greta Gerwig’s hit film, Barbie, which led to a “pink wave” in pop culture when it was released in theaters this summer.

Artists such as the duo Drift have embraced “Barbiemania” as inspiration for new work. In July, Drift melted down one of the dolls and deconstructed her into an abstract sculpture. Meanwhile, the artist Stuart Semple has released Pinkie – The Barbiest Pink, a new pigment created to protest Mattel’s trademark of “Barbie Pink.”

Additionally, the National Toy Hall of Fame announced last month that Ken, Barbie’s companion, is one of 12 finalists for induction in the hall.

“[T]his may have been the year of Barbie at the box office, but perhaps Ken will share some of the spotlight by getting inducted into the hall?”  Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections at the Strong Museum, said in a news release. “Only time will tell!”

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