Barbie exhibition coming to the Design Museum in 2024- The Design Museum in London today announced it will open a major new exhibition on the history of Barbie™ next year.
Three years in the making and opening to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the Barbie brand in 2024, the exhibition will explore the design evolution of one of the world’s most famous dolls.
Through a unique new partnership with Mattel Inc., the Design Museum has been granted special access to the extensive Barbie archives in California, and dozens of rare and unique items will go on show alongside other key loans and acquisitions to tell the story of the iconic brand over the past six-and-a-half decades.
The exhibition will be curated by the Design Museum Curator Danielle Thom and will map the Barbie legacy that started in 1959 when Ruth Handler wanted to craft a different narrative for her daughter, Barbara. It will go on to explore the story of Barbie through a design lens, including fashion, architecture, furniture and vehicle design.
Barbie is one of the most recognisable brands on the planet and as we’ve seen recently, her story evolves with each new generation. I am delighted that we can announce that we’re planning to mark Barbie’s 65th birthday with a major exhibition, and I want to thank Mattel for collaborating with us through their extensive archive to help us tell this story. We look forward next year to displaying a whole range of eye-catching objects, some familiar but many never seen before, to showcase the evolution of design across the decades of Barbie’s world.Tim Marlow, Director and CEO of the Design Museum
Barbie, 5th July 2024 – 23rd February 2025, the Design Museum
Barbie, the iconic fashion doll, emerged in 1959 as the brainchild of American businesswoman Ruth Handler and the craftsmanship of American toy company Mattel. Over the span of six decades, Barbie has not only become a staple in the toy fashion doll market but has also evolved into a prominent brand, encompassing an array of fashion dolls and accessories. With over a billion Barbie dolls sold, it stands as Mattel’s flagship and most lucrative product line.
Since the late 1980s, the Barbie brand has diversified into a multimedia empire, spanning video games, computer-animated films, and even a live-action movie. Alongside her male counterpart, Ken, Barbie enjoys the status of being the world’s most beloved dolls.
From the outset, Barbie has played a pivotal role in shaping the toy industry worldwide, serving as a conduit for the sale of complementary items such as clothing, accessories, and Barbie’s friends and family. Don Richard Cox, writing for the Journal of Popular Culture in 1977, recognized Barbie’s influence in propagating values of female independence and projecting an aspirational, upscale lifestyle shared with affluent friends, thanks to her extensive range of accessories.
Although Barbie faced a decline in sales between 2014 and 2016, the year 2020 witnessed a resurgence, with Mattel raking in $1.35 billion in Barbie doll and accessory sales. This marked their most remarkable sales growth in two decades, surpassing the $950 million figure recorded in 2017. Projections from MarketWatch indicate that the release of the 2023 film “Barbie” is poised to usher in a new era of substantial growth for the brand, extending until at least 2030. Notably, the film’s release has sparked a fashion trend known as “Barbiecore,” breathing fresh life into the iconic doll’s legacy.
In conclusion, Barbie remains a timeless symbol of fashion and aspiration, capturing the hearts of generations while continuing to redefine the boundaries of creativity and style.