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. Pharrell Williams, an avid collector himself, co-curated the show. In collaboration with John wee, Sara Nickelson, the three have realized a presentation that highlights the practice of more than a dozen key artists and toy designers like Takashi Murakami, KAWS, FriendsWithYou, Coarse, Huck Gee, and Frank Kozik who have established a taskforce in this creative and commercial gender.
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. Though ‘ toys designers’ employ 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.
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.
Visitors had the possibility of diving headfirst into the realm of designer toys as the Exhibition Hall was transformed into a vibrant and whimsical environment, filled with forms ranging from tiny trinkets to enormous free-standing pieces.