Small Talk / Exhibits

Stuffed with Fluff

Winnie-the-Pooh chapter "Christopher Robin leads an expedition"

Before he was the chubby, red-shirted, honey-loving yellow bear we all know and love today, Winnie the Pooh had his humble beginnings as a teddy bear. Author A. A. Milne purchased the stuffed bear at Harrods as a gift for his son, Christopher Robin, in 1921. Five years later, Pooh (who was named after a real bear at the zoo and a pet swan) and his friends Kanga, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet became characters and illustrations in Milne’s books.

The group of mohair, felt, and velveteen stuffed animals were sold by Milne’s publisher E. P. Dutton, and eventually donated to the New York Public Library. Earlier this year, in honor of Pooh’s 90th birthday, the library worked with a team of textile conservators to return the stuffed animals to how they looked when Christopher Robin played with them. As a result, Kanga’s neck was repaired, Piglet’s nose was reattached, Eeyore’s patches were replaced, and of course all of them were re-stuffed with fluff. All of the friends from the Hundred Acre Wood are now back on display at the NYPL Children’s Center for future generations to enjoy.

Barbie Goes to Paris

Barbie Exhibit

Who would have imagined a small town girl from Willows, Wisconsin would one day have her own feature exhibit in Paris? Ok, so maybe she’s not a real person (and her hometown doesn’t really exist), but the recent Barbie exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs was anything but fictional. Earlier this year, 700 versions of the iconic doll were featured along with contemporary artworks and other historical objects that tell Barbie’s multi-faceted story.

Why feature an American toy in a French museum? Like many other toys, Barbie mirrors the cultural climates of the last 57 years, not only in America but in much of the Western world. The exhibit also came during a banner year for Barbie and her maker, Mattel, who announced several new body types and skin tones in an effort to reflect a more diverse market. On top of that fact, Barbie was created as a “teenage fashion model doll,” and where better to feature her wide array of couture than in Paris? Whether she’s moonwalking in her pink astronaut suit or walking the runway in a Christian Louboutin catsuit, Barbie sparks the imaginations of children and adults—and looks great doing it!

Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Micro-miniature Marvels

Museum of Miniatures in Prague

There are miniatures, and then there are micro-miniatures. Yes indeed, the smallest of the small works of art are best viewed through a microscope or magnifying glass at the Museum of Miniatures in Prague. This mind-blowing museum features the works of professional microminiaturists Anatolij Konenko, Nikolai Aldunin, and Edward Ter Ghazarian.

Visitors to the museum can expect to see super-small works including a flea wearing horseshoes, a caravan of camels in the eye of a needle, and a grasshopper playing a violin. Like miniature artists working in a variety of scales, microminiaturists create many of the tools they use to get the precision necessary for these super-small works. Amazingly, Konenko creates his work between his heart beats in order to account for the small tremor that occurs with blood circulation in the fingers. Now that’s a finely tuned artistic process!
Photo: leiris202/Creative Commons.

LACMA’s Miniature Metropolis

Metropolis II

We’re obviously huge fans of kinetic sculptures that incorporate toys, hence T/m’s two-story Toytisserie. Although it’s not in a museum of toys or miniatures, artist Chris Burden’s large installation Metropolis II has been amazing visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) since 2011. Metropolis II is a fury of 1,100 matchbox cars whirring by at a scale speed of 230 miles per hour on a complex system of tracks around a futuristic miniature skyline.

Witnessing the sculpture in person in the LACMA galleries evokes feelings of wonder and awe, but with a tinge of anxiety, similar to driving on a real-life multi-lane freeway in heavy traffic (after all, toys are teaching tools for life, you know!). It took Burden and his studio team over four years of research and design to get all the components exactly right—even so, a team of attendants is on hand in case a car derails or jams up the track. The sculpture runs intermittently for four hours every day at LACMA.
Photo: Chris Burden, Metropolis II, 2010, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, courtesy of the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation, © Chris Burden Estate

The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination

miniature Disneyland

As we know from an earlier blog post, Walt Disney was a huge fan of miniatures. Disney dreamed of creating little vignettes of America, placing them on a train, and touring them around the U.S. Although “Disneylandia” eventually grew to be a much bigger project, Disneyland, his “lands” were miniaturized and put on public view at The Walt Disney Family Museum. “The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination” represents the park with attractions that existed or were in development during Disney’s lifetime. Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and her family worked with Kerner Optical for nine months before premiering the model at the museum in September of 2009.

As with any other miniature, no detail was overlooked. The Rivers of America were crafted out of blue-painted shower door Plexiglas on a green base to create the illusion of depth. And all the hand sculpture flags fly in an eastern direction just as they would in Disneyland due to the western ocean breeze. Anyone familiar with the park may wonder if the model includes any hidden Mickeys. It doesn’t, but don’t be disappointed! Two hidden Walts can be found walking with his daughter behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle and riding in a red Autopia car.
Photo: Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum.

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