|Of Toys and Men
24 February - 20 May 2012
Nalle-nukke, valmistaja Sigikid, Saksa, 1993 © Photo Les Arts Décoratifs/Jean Tholance
This alluringly abundant pageant of toys will occupy both floors of the Tennis Palace Art Museum and take the audience on a time journey back to childhood. Exploring the relationship between play and art through nearly 800 objects, the exhibition presents the history, design and aesthetics of Western toys from several centuries. Featuring toys from different periods, photographs and art objects, it demonstrates that play is a fundamental aspect of humanity and a creative and regenerative cultural force.
Toys are like miniature sculptures that tell about style periods, cultural history and manners. Revealing prevalent gender roles, they show how adults seek to prepare children for their encounter with society. Toys reflect the reality of their own age in miniature.
The timescale of the exhibition also demonstrates the development of toy manufacture: a home industry and craft sideline has become an industrial mass product and a consumer commodity. The exhibits include toys that have belonged to royalty, along with beloved classics of such legendary toy manufacturers as Märklin from Germany and America’s Mattel. Also featured are unique items created by ordinary people as well as great artists, such as Alexander Calder and Keith Haring. In addition to toys the exhibition also features artworks, posters and films on the theme of toys. The exhibits are on loan from major public and private collections in Europe and the United States, including Paris’s Louvre and the V&A Museum of Childhood in London.
The exhibition is brought alive by the commentary of Pierrick Sorin. The French video artist has created comical optical theatres and videos in which he steps into the world of toys, guiding the visitor from one theme to the next.
The show also includes animal toys from the collection of the Finnish artist and writer Rosa Liksom, as well as her toy-inspired art. A selection of works from the collection of the Helsinki Art Museum represents contemporary art in the show. Items from the Finnish toy industry include Martta dolls and Moomin characters by Atelier Fauni.
The exhibition is produced by the Helsinki Art Museum and RMN – Grand Palais, Paris, in collaboration with Les Arts Décoratifs. It is part of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 programme.