Art, Design and Barbie: The Evolution of a Cultural Icon (exhibition)
Region: North America
Subject: Explicit Sexuality, Language,
Medium: Design, Installation
Artist: Exhibitions International
Confronting Bodies: Mattel Inc.
Dates of Action: December, 1995
Location: New York, New York
Description of Artwork: The exhibition, Art, Design and Barbie: The Evolution of a Cultural Icon, sought to offer a history of the Barbie doll, explain its international success and examine its place in consumer culture. The exhibit featured essays and artistic installations of the dolls in their various forms, such as pregnant Barbie and Barbie's "friends" and "boyfriend."
The Incident: The exhibit was compiled by a team of sociologists, museum directors and Exhibition International's professional staff. After the exhibition's installation, Mattel officials began making changes. They removed Barbie dolls that were fat, pregnant or scandalously dressed. Mattel officials also removed an essay that examined the "gay look" of Barbie's "boyfriend" Ken, and why children are known to draw nipples on Barbie dolls. Mattel officials suggested that their intention was to appeal to family values and protect sensitive children. Exhibition officials believed that Mattel merely intended to promote the doll through the exhibition.
Results of Incident: Mattel officials made several changes to the exhibit in the final moments of its installation. The director of the Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan decided not to host the exhibit after the incident recieved coverage in several newspapers and periodicals.
Source: Censorship, A World Encyclopedia, ed. D. Jones