65 years of the most famous doll in the world, in an exhibition set up by Sam Jacob Studio at the Design Museum in London. There is the very rare first edition from 1959 and also the prototype of the Talking Barbie. As well as a series of accessories, machines and dream homes that have made generations dream

It is well known that Barbie has made - and continues to make - dreams of generations of boys and girls from the late 1950s onwards. Stop for a second and reflect, instead, on the fact that the most famous doll in the world, now on display at Design Museum in London, has already blown out 65 candles, it has a bit of an effect. For aficionados and non-aficionados alike.

And among the good reasons to visit the new exhibition Barbie: the exhibition there is in fact not only the intent to retrace the iconic history of the toy, but, also and above all, the desire to deepen the design dimension of the doll, which for over sixty years has brought with it a complex package of preparatory processes - from conception to development - which have a lot to do with design, as well as with storytelling alone.

Barbie in London: over 250 pieces (including some quite rare) on display

The installation, curated by the international studio based in London Sam Jacob Studio with the overall curatorship of Danielle Thom, aims precisely to tell everyone the technical and cultural aspects linked to the birth and continuous updating of Barbie: in an unmistakable total-pink backdrop, the team worked with Mattel to highlight, therefore, chronologically and delicately, which these are the processes that have made the history of the toy iconic.

On display,over 180 dolls and 250 pieces including accessories, ranging from the very first (and highly sought after) "Number 1" Barbie from 1959 to the unprecedented prototype of Talking Barbie (1968), among the numerous items rare ones lent directly from the Mattel archives in Los Angeles.

It is perhaps precisely this case that best illustrates the intent of the exhibition: to highlight the design process and the functioning of Talking Barbie, the prototype displayed shows a transparent bust created to allow potential wholesalers and customers to observe the doll's vocal mechanism, which can be activated via a cord.

The most famous Barbies ever

Then there are some of the most famous and best-selling dolls, including the "surfer" Sunset Malibu Barbie from 1971, one of the most popular of the 70s, and the previously unreleased Day to Night Barbiefrom 1985, created to represent the revolution in the world of women's work in the 1980s. This doll wore a pink business suit that transformed into an elegant evening gown.

There will also be two examples of Totally Hair Barbie from 1992, the best-selling Barbie of all time with over 10 million pieces sold worldwide.

Among others, the first black Barbie, the first Hispanic Barbie and the first Asian Barbie are on display, along with other dolls that reflect the diversity and multicultural character of today's society. There is also the first Barbie with Down syndrome, the first Barbie in a wheelchair, and the first to show off "curvy" lines.

Why see the Barbie exhibition in London if you are an architect or designer

The birth of Barbie is told through numerous playsets, vehicles, houses and other accessories, which together have contributed to "shaping" the universe in which she lives.

A rare example of Barbie's very first Dream House, dating back to 1962 and made of cardboard with typically modernist designs for the time, is displayed together with the other houses and some of the doll's vehicles, such as the first car (also 1962) and the first camper (1971), plus a full range of other "locations", from mountain homes to space stations.

Precisely through these objects, the visitor can observe the evolution of the doll, always in step with trends and aligned with socio-cultural progress.

For the more curious visitors, in the architecture and design fields, it is also possible to observe what influence the different designers and architects have had, from Florence Knoll to Frank Gehry, about the Barbie universe, and  understand the meaning of different mainstream trends and large commercial chains.

“Design has always been at the center of Barbie's history since her creation over 65 years ago,” said Tim Marlow, Director and CEO of the Design Museum. “The impact this doll has had on each new generation has continued to evolve, as we have seen recently. Visitors to our exhibit will see firsthand some of Barbie's most important and celebrated collaborations over the past 65 years of history of the brand. We hope it will be a joyful, engaging, inspiring, enlightening, and perhaps even a little nostalgic experience for the many generations of Barbie fans."

Barbie: The Exhibition, useful information

Barbie®: The Exhibition is open to the public from July 5, 2024 to February 23, 2025, at the Design Museum, London.

To access you must register, tickets are available here.