Barbie®: A Cultural Icon

Oct 19, 2024–Mar 16, 2025

Barbie®: A Cultural Icon charts the 65-year history of Barbie and the doll’s global impact on fashion and popular culture through an expansive display of more than 250 vintage dolls, life-size fashion designs, advertisements, and other ephemera, along with exclusive video interviews with the doll's designers. Visitors to the exhibition will trace the evolution of Barbie from a child’s toy to a global icon across six distinct sections, each exploring the style trends, careers, and identities that Barbie has embodied and popularized since her debut in 1959.

The opening section relays the Barbie origin story and presents all twenty-two original ensemble outfits, while subsequent areas consider the influence of the Space Age; the creation of Christie™, the first Black Barbie 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 representing a range of ethnicities, body types, and careers, including a feature on the first Black Barbie. 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.

The exhibition, curated by Karan Feder and drawn from the private collection of David Porcello and Mattel, also features more than 50 historical objects and five unique photo opportunities, including a life-size Barbie Ultra 'Vette™ with which visitors can interact. The exhibit will also showcase the Barbie Signature 65th Blue Sapphire Anniversary Fashion Dolls, paying homage to the iconic history and legacy of Barbie.

Barbie®: A Cultural Icon is presented in collaboration with Illusion Projects and Mattel, Inc., a leading global toy and family entertainment company and owner of one of the most iconic brand portfolios in the world. The major exhibition first debuted in 2021, welcoming thousands of visitors in both Phoenix and Las Vegas. Barbie®: A Cultural Icon marks its exclusive East Coast engagement at MAD, celebrating the 65th anniversary of Barbie.

Barbie®: A Cultural Icon exhibition is made possible at the Museum of Arts and Design through the generous support of:

The Francine A. LeFrak Foundation

Michele and Marty Cohen

Francine LeFrak , The Samuel J.
and Ethel LeFrak Charitable Trust  

Barbie®: A Cultural Icon
Curated and Toured by Illusion Projects Inc. and curated by Karan Feder, in partnership with Mattel Inc.
Karan Feder – Curator
Shelley Lynn M.A. – Director
Tim Clothier – Producer
David Porcello – Consultant
Suzanne Becker PhD – Education Consultant
Trevor Bluth – Project Manager

Installation view courtesy of Illusion Projects. Photo: Jason Harper Photography

BARBIE® and associated trademarks and trade dress are owned by, and used under license from, Mattel.

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