House of Dreams at ION Art Gallery features over 600 versions of the world’s most glamourous doll.
Barbie has long occupied a complicated position in world culture, yes?
During my primary school days, boys would rather be dead than be seen playing or touching any. Conversely, “Barbie” would be the name that soon comes to mind when thinking of toys to buy for young girls.
In my JC and university, any discussion of sexism, Western commercialism, or cultural hegemony inevitably contained multiple mentions of the toy. Looking back, I guess most of my lecturers were just looking for an easy object to scorn. Not that I blame them, though, the early 90s were pre-Internet days for Singapore.
As for me, well, I’m never one for medieval gender roles, but I don’t feel for the colour pink or blond dolls either, so I rarely look at any Barbie doll twice. This, however, changed after I visited Munich’s Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum) in 2001. The 100 odd Barbie dolls there highlighted to me how Mattel’s best-selling doll has long found a permanent place in fashion, world culture, and feminism. How there’s a whole world of enthusiastic adult collectors too.
Further on the Munich showcase, I enjoyed it, but it is absolutely, absolutely dwarfed by what’s happening at ION Art Gallery till Oct 21, 2022. The gallery’s House of Dreams exhibition, which began on Sep 19, has over 600 Barbie and collectible dolls on display.
Yes, Six hundred.
And it’s free! Elegant, well-presented, informative, and free. When I visited on Friday evening, there were even free (pink) sticker giveaways.
Whether you’re fond of Barbie, or not, this is one Singaporean pop-up exhibition well worth visiting. (Yes, even if you’re a dude)
Barbie’s Dreamy House of Dreams
By the way, Jian Yang is also the creative force behind #FlushableFashion, which produces doll couture using sustainable materials. Check out this link.
What About … Ken?
Ken, or should I say Ken doll, is everywhere in this exhibition too. However, he mostly plays the part of a companion, which I guess is his … life purpose.
What’s more interesting is this. There’s a section featuring Jian dolls. As in, dolls resembling the owner, Jian Yang.
House of Dreams ends on Oct 21, 2022. I believe I’ve shown no more than 15 percent of the dolls, if not fewer. So do head down soon to check out this awesome exhibition.