The show, which opens Thursday, is as much a chronicle of the history and cultural influence of the much-smaller-than-life toys as an argument for how relevant Barbie and Hot Wheels remain in the digital age of iPhones and Xbox Ones.
"Barbies and cars are just as valuable today as they were in the 1950s for one reason: They helped, and still help, kids imagine themselves as grownups," says
The brainchild of
Bird, not a fan of Barbies or miniature cars when this conquest for toys began, has since become "totally fascinated" with collecting the playthings. Since October, he's been assembling the trove of Barbies (about 800 dolls and 200 accessories, including dresses, Ken dolls, mansions, horses, dogs) and racecars (hundreds of Matchbox cars and the more flamboyant Hot Wheels, accompanied by vertical-loop racetrack sets).
"This is not a collector's-quality show. These are previously owned toys," Bird says, pointing to a 1971 Sunset Malibu Barbie whose feet contains teeth marks. "We didn't want to borrow from other private collections because we hope to tour this exhibition. But this is still the most pristine-looking collection I've ever seen."
Yellow and pink racing-stripe patterns adorn the walls of the Norton's main gallery, where various Barbie and Matchbox collections will be grouped chronologically, diorama-style, on individual stands. The dolls will be accompanied by print advertisements and wall-projected TV commercials. One vintage issue of
"People ask these days how, in the world of digital toys, does this stuff impact kids with iPhones, and I think that's a stupid question," Bird says. "When you update a smartphone, you lose your experience with
Wheels and Heels: The Big Noise Around Little Toys
Contact: 561-832-5196 or Norton.org
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