Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum presents Barbie®: A Cultural Icon

Phoenix Art Museum presents Barbie®: A Cultural Icon

Phoenix Art Museum presents Barbie®: A Cultural Icon
Sep, 19, 2023

Special Engagement Exhibitions

Phoenix Art Museum presents Barbie®: A Cultural Icon

Major exhibition explores the history of Barbie and her influence on fashion and pop culture; complemented by a presentation drawn from PhxArt fashion-design collection that traces the history of the color pink 

PHOENIX (September 19, 2023) – On February 14, 2024, Phoenix Art Museum (PhxArt), in collaboration with Illusion Projects and Mattel, Inc., a leading global toy company and owner of one of the strongest catalogs of children’s and family entertainment franchises in the world, opens Barbie: A Cultural Icon, the first presentation of the major exhibition in Arizona. The expansive display examines the Barbie brand’s 60+ year history and the doll’s global impact on pop culture through a wide-ranging showcase of more than 250 vintage dolls, 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. The exhibition will be complemented by an original PhxArt fashion-design exhibition titled The Power of Pink, which explores the history, science, and associations of the color synonymous with the iconic Barbie brand. Barbie: A Cultural Icon will be on view at Phoenix Art Museum from February 14 through July 7, 2024.

“For generations, Barbie has been a popular and prominent figure in our contemporary culture, reflecting the evolution of gender, identity, beauty, empowerment, and success. Often influencing and shifting societal norms in tangible ways, Barbie has also been in step with trends throughout fashion history,” said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “As an institution dedicated to the research, scholarship, and exhibition of fashion design and one of only seven art museums in the United States with an active collecting focus, we remain dedicated to presenting exhibitions that offer new and exciting explorations of this incredible artform, including the intersections of couture and popular culture. We are excited to provide our visitors with a unique opportunity to examine Barbie within this context through Barbie: A Cultural Icon.”

Created by Illusion Projects and curated by costume historian Karan Feder in collaboration with Mattel, Barbie: A Cultural Icon examines the cultural impact of Barbie spanning from 1959 to the present day, showcasing more than 250 vintage dolls—including the original Barbie—from the collections of private collector David Porcello and Mattel. The exhibition also features 50+ historical objects and life-size fashion designs, 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.

“We’re delighted to announce the opening of Barbie: A Cultural Icon at PhxArt” said Julie Freeland, Senior Director of Global Location Based Entertainment at Mattel. “Barbie is a brand that has evolved through generations, and we can’t wait for fans of all ages to take a journey through time with us!”

Visitors to the exhibition will trace the Barbie evolution from a child’s toy to a global icon across six distinct sections. The first section relays 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™. Visitors will also see Barbie 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.

“Barbie has always been associated with innovative fashion, wearing pantsuits and dresses, roller blades and workout clothes, right in line with the trends of the times,” said Helen Jean, PhxArt’s Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design. “Over the past decade, however, we’ve seen Barbie shift from a mirror of trends to a trendsetter, no longer simply wearing the silhouettes and styles most prominently promoted to girls and women but instead dictating what those fashions are or can be. She’s inspired runway-fashion collections over the last 10 years. Barbie: A Cultural Icon offers an exciting opportunity to explore this paradigm shift.”

The presentation of Barbie: A Cultural Icon at PhxArt will be complemented by an exhibition drawn exclusively from the Museum’s expansive fashion-design collection. On view from February 14 through July 7, 2024, The Power of Pink celebrates the complex history of the color pink, which is typically associated with feminine expression. The exhibition traces the history of the hue and the evolution of its role in fashion from its origins in 17th-century France, where it was worn by both men and women as a symbol of status, luxury, and power, to 1940s North America, when mass-marketing efforts began to gender the color, assigning pink to girls and blue to boys. Through more than 10 garments and ensembles, The Power of Pink encourages thoughtful examination of the color and its influence on major designers such as Gianfranco Ferré, Christian Dior, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, and more.  “Our presentation of Barbie: A Cultural Icon offers a timely opportunity for us to draw upon our incredible fashion-design collection to explore Barbie’s favorite color,” said Jean, who curated The Power of Pink. “Just like Barbie, the color pink sparks conversations, and just like Barbie, pink is having its day in the spotlight. We look forward to considering the history, politics, and science behind this popular yet polarizing color.”

High-resolution photography for Barbie: A Cultural Icon can be downloaded here. Images from The Power Pink can be downloaded here. To request interviews, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2117 or

About the Exhibitions
Barbie®: A Cultural Icon 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 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.

The Power of Pink is organized by Phoenix Art Museum and curated by Helen Jean, the Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design at Phoenix Art Museum. The Power of Pink is made possible by the generosity of Arizona Costume Institute, My Sister’s Closet, and the Kelly Ellman Fashion Design Endowment Fund. 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.

Admission is free for Museum Members; youth aged five and younger; and Maricopa County Community Colleges students. Entrance into the exhibition is included in general admission for the public. During voluntary donation times on Wednesdays from 3 – 9 pm, made possible by SRP and the City of Phoenix, admission to special-engagement exhibitions is offered at a discounted price. For a full breakdown of general-admission prices and hours, see

About Phoenix Art Museum
Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 300,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit, or call 602.257.1880.

About Mattel, Inc.
Mattel is a leading global toy company and owner of one of the strongest catalogs of children’s and family entertainment franchises in the world. We create innovative products and experiences that inspire, entertain, and develop children through play. We engage consumers through our portfolio of iconic brands, including Barbie®, Hot Wheels®, Fisher-Price®, American Girl®, Thomas & Friends®, UNO®, Masters of the Universe®, Monster High® and MEGA®, as well as other popular intellectual properties that we own or license in partnership with global entertainment companies. Our offerings include film and television content, gaming, music, and live events. We operate in 35 locations and our products are available in more than 150 countries in collaboration with the world’s leading retail and ecommerce companies. Since its founding in 1945, Mattel is proud to be a trusted partner in empowering children to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential. Visit us online at

About Illusion Projects Inc.
Illusion Projects is a creative design and production company. Working with industry leaders such as Meow Wolf, Spiegelworld, Caesars Entertainment, and Cirque du Soleil; they specialize in the production, design and fabrication of exciting experiences and theatrical entertainment. As a creative company, they believe in pulling together intrigue, spectacle, education, and fascination; to deliver lasting memories and amazing adventures.

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