ArtExhibitionsBarbie®: A Cultural Icon Exhibition
Special-Engagement Exhibition

Barbie®: A Cultural Icon Exhibition

February 14 – July 7, 2024 Located in Katz Wing Mezzanine Fashion Galleries

Trace the evolution of Barbie, from child’s toy to global icon.

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Created by Illusion Projects and Mattel, Inc., Barbie®: A Cultural Icon Exhibition examines the Barbie brand’s 60+ year history and the doll’s global impact on pop culture. Across six distinct sections, visitors experience more than 250 vintage dolls—including the original Barbie—from the collections of private collector David Porcello and Mattel, life-size fashion designs, exclusive interviews, and narrative sections that consider the style trends, careers, and identities that Barbie has embodied and popularized over the decades.

Image courtesy of Illusion Projects, Inc. and Mattel Inc. ©2020 Mattel Inc.

The major exhibition begins with the Barbie origin story and presents all 22 original ensemble outfits, while subsequent areas consider the influence of the Space Age; the creation of Christie, the first Black doll; the arrival of Ken; and the creation of the Barbie Dreamhouse™. Barbie also appears in the iconic fashions of the 1970s, including Groovy Style, beachwear, and disco-themed designs, while sections on the 1980s and 1990s present a selection of diverse Barbie dolls that represent a range of ethnicities, body types, and careers. The exhibition culminates in the 2000s, spotlighting the continued diversification of characters within the Barbie universe and connecting them to contemporary fashion trends, perspectives, and identities.

In addition to vintage dolls, historical objects, and life-size fashion designs, Barbie®: A Cultural Icon Exhibition features video interviews with Barbie designers on five custom-made Barbie Dreamhouse TVs and five unique photo opportunities, including a life-size Barbie Mirror-Pink Corvette with which guests can interact.

The exhibition is complemented by original PhxArt exhibition The Power of Pink, which is drawn exclusively from the Museum’s expansive fashion-design collection. The Power of Pink explores the history, science, and associations of the color synonymous with the iconic Barbie brand.

Installation view of Barbie®: A Cultural Icon, 2024. Phoenix Art Museum.

Installation view of Barbie®: A Cultural Icon, 2024. Phoenix Art Museum.

Images courtesy of Illusion Projects, Inc. and Mattel Inc. ©2024 Mattel Inc. All rights reserved. Installation views of Barbie®: A Cultural Icon, 2024. Phoenix Art Museum.



Barbie®: A Cultural Icon Exhibition was created by Illusion Projects and curated by costume historian Karan Feder, in collaboration with Mattel. The exhibition’s presentation at Phoenix Art Museum is coordinated by Helen Jean, the Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design.

The Phoenix premiere of Barbie®: A Cultural Icon Exhibition is made possible through the generosity of The Opatrny Family Foundation, Arizona Costume Institute, Desert Financial Credit Union, Men’s Arts Council, My Sister’s Closet, Shamrock Farms, and Miriam and Yefim Sukhman.

All exhibitions at Phoenix Art Museum are underwritten by the Phoenix Art Museum Exhibition Excellence Fund, founded by The Opatrny Family Foundation with additional major support provided by Joan Cremin.


Art Talk: Thinking Pink: Science and History
ACI Lunch & Lecture with Karan Feder
ACI March Membership Outreach Reception and Exhibition Tour



Media Images and Credit Lines


Press Release

Phoenix Art Museum presents Barbie®: A Cultural Icon

On view for a limited time, exhibitions present art from across the centuries and the globe, from iconic fashion to Old Master paintings, contemporary photography to historical objects of Asia.


Featuring more than 20,000 objects, the collection spans the globe, bringing the world to our city, and our city to the world.


Since 1986, Phoenix Art Museum has awarded more than $350,000 to over 200 Arizona-based artists through two annual artist awards opportunities.


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