I don't suppose there's any chance of anyone saying, "yes" but...any of my female readers want to suddenly feel old? Try contemplating this. Barbie is turning forty. Barbie who? Barbie Mattel of course, or at least I presume that's her last name. No one in my family was ever a big fan of the young lady so I'm really not sure. My sister had one, and a little suitcase full of clothes, but by today's standards, that could be deemed a mere tokenism. Today, a collection of less than forty is considered "all things in moderation." Collections numbering upwards to a hundred are not too uncommon. What with Ken and Muffy or Buffy, or whatever the hell her friends are called, the proper preteen today needs an entire clique of them just to look HER friends in the eye and hold her head up with the rest of them. Although Barbie is largely passe in terms of "political correctness" these days, there was a time when ardent feminists would "see red" at the mere mention of her name. At any rate, after forty years, there's little doubt she's become an American Icon.
That's why I had to laugh when I read this. Mattel is sponsoring an "Art of Barbie" exhibit. Boy, talk about asking for trouble. That's akin to pasting a "kick me" note on the back of each showcase box. Given the fact that her figure is already little short of obscene...or at least highly suggestive...the possibilities boggle the mind. And after the Ofili embarrassment, well, expect to read MORE on this. Already Mattel has given word that it will pull from the exhibit a piece by British sculptor, Marc Quinn, reputedly featuring a decapitated Barbie smeared with bloody paint (as the British might say). Quinn is reported to have created the piece in jest (given the fact that his previous works include his OWN blood). I'm not sure if British law has the equivalent of our First Amendment, but if previous US lawsuits are any indication, Mattel is not known to have a sense of humor where it's precious family of female flesh and polyvinyl is concerned.
The show is planned to open in December at London's Natural History Museum. This is NATURAL history? And why not in THIS country? Given the outrageous streak of offensive creativity the upstart pack of male British artists have exhibited recently, this show, literally in their backyard, seems more designed as bait to attract media attention than a serious attempt to explore the legend of Barbie as a social phenomena from a creative point of view. Ostensibly, the doll makers hope to attract the world's top artists and designers to explore "modern interpretations of the world's most famous doll." Rachel Whiteread has plans to entomb Barbie in a concrete block for the exhibit while fashion designer, Alexander McQueen has cast our beloved American preteen sex symbol as Joan of Arc. Get out the fire extinguisher. Mattel plans to make the exhibit a charity function by auctioning off the various pieces with the proceeds going to AIDS victims and their families. There's no word on whether "Ken" will attend.