Yesterday morning at the Design Exchange we had the pleasure of being some of the first to lay eyes on the world’s first ever exhibition featuring an expertly curated collection of contemporary sculptures, conceptual toys, figurines, and art installations at the This Is Not A Toy exhibition guest curated by Pharrell Williams. Guided by curators John Wee Tom and Design Exchange’s associate curator Sara Nickelson, we toured the exhibition which began at the origin of some of the first vinyl toys to ever be designed and produced by Brian Donnelly, better known as KAWS, Nigo who started the street wear brand A Bathing Ape, Medicom, and American graphic artist Frank Kozik known for his rock band posters.
The opening room feeds beautifully into the exhibition hall which begins with a rare and collaborative section of prolific pieces like the diamond encrusted The Simple Things by Takashi Murakami, Jacob the Jeweler, and Pharrell Williams, as well as Yoshitomo Nara’s highly coveted sleepless night sitting toy. The exhibit also includes a plush corner featuring pieces by DOMA centring on “media control and the meaning of truth”, adjacent to a room with a giant inflatable balloon-like character hanging from the ceiling by FriendsLikeYou which you can walk up to and spin. With KAWS being at the forefront of the urban toy movement, much of the exhibition centres on his work, in fact, adjacent one of his giant wooden Companion sculptures, nearly an entire wall includes limited edition vinyl toys including his 99 Companions, the OriginalFake KAWS x Darth Vader, and his OriginalFake running Chums, created in the likeness of the Michelin Man.
Steve Cober and Kristin Weckworth of Toronto concept store and gallery Magic Pony also contributed a walk-in installation of their favourite artists they’ve collected over the years, grouped in their own functioning ecosystems. Around the corner is the platform toy hall which features over five hundred Kidrobot DUNNY’s and ten stunning custom MUNNY’s designed by noted Canadian artists like Jeremy Laing. The exhibit also features over thirty Be@rbricks (including one given to Jeanne Beker by Chanel), DEVILROBOTS’s TO-FU OYAKO, pieces by Misaki Kawai, Coarse, Huck Gee, and of course, Frank Kozik.
Much of the collection is on loan from avid urban vinyl collectors like Toronto’s own Jonathan Elias of Lost & Found, JohnnyVinyl, Pharrell Williams, Jeanne Becker, Magic Pony’s Steve Cober and Kristin Weckworth who have played a huge role in our local vinyl toy culture over the past twelve years, as well as many other international collectors and artists. Wee Tom and Nickelson mentioned that it was quite a difficult process to gather the pieces from various collectors because of how cherished and rare much of the pieces are.
If you’re as designer toy obsessed as we’ve been for the past decade or so, you won’t miss one of the most exciting and prolific exhibitions to date before it closes on May 19th.
Take a look through some of our snaps from the media preview below.