Barbie Exhibition on display at the Phoenix Art Museum

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Visitors experienced more than 250 vintage dolls—including the original Barbie—from the collections of private collector David Porcello and Mattel. The exhibition was on display until July 7, 2024. 

The major exhibition begins with the Barbie origin story and presents all 22 original ensemble outfits, while subsequent areas consider the influence of the Space Age; the creation of Christie, the first Black doll; the arrival of Ken; and the creation of the Barbie Dreamhouse™.

In addition to vintage dolls, historical objects, and life-size fashion designs, Barbie®: A Cultural Icon Exhibition features video interviews with Barbie designers on five custom-made Barbie Dreamhouse TVs and five unique photo opportunities, including a life-size Barbie Mirror-Pink Corvette with which guests can interact.

The exhibition is complemented by the original Phx Art exhibition The Power of Pink, which is drawn exclusively from the Museum’s expansive fashion-design collection. The Power of Pink explores the history, science, and associations of the color synonymous with the iconic Barbie brand.

We welcomed Helen Jean the Fashion Curator at the Phoenix Art Museum to learn about the exhibit.

The purpose of this exhibit was to see how involved fashion was with Barbie and the answer was it was very involved. 

 This event meant traveling across the world to view the different fashion trends in runway designer shows. 

“The curator Karen Feder wanted to answer the question: how involved with fashion was Barbie? And so fashion at the time, Barbie came out in 1959, designers would very often look and see what’s happening on the Paris runways, go to a tailor and have something made similar and so Barbie’s designers were also operating in a similar fashion where they were traveling to Paris seeing what was new on the runway…,” said Jean. 

The exhibit is categorized by each decade and time period, along with outfits and accessories that fit within the time period. 

“…Each of the dolls is from a specific time period. They are fully dressed and accessorized from those time periods and they’re organized by different decade. So, you begin with the history of Barbie and then you travel through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s into today and each section has careers, talks about how Barbie diversified and tells you more about the Barbie universe as you move on,” said Jean. 

Helen Jean/Fashion Curator, Phoenix Art Museum

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