Of Toys and Men

From 14 September 2011 to 23 January 2012

Grand Palais

An exhibition presented by the Rmn-Grand Palais with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

“Toys are the first taste of art.” Charles Baudelaire

A thousand toys from Antiquity to the present day, all in one exhibition! Nothing of such scope has ever been attempted before: antique dolls, royal dolls, Barbie dolls, trains, planes, boats, bears of all sorts, astonishingly lifelike clockwork toys, warlike videogames, lead soldiers and plastic figurines, flying saucers, Noah’s arks and even Father Christmas in an aeroplane.

Midway between mimicry and imagination
Of Toys and Men presents a history of toys in the Western world and spotlights their importance in children’s education right from birth. It looks at the ambiguous relationship that children foster with their miniature version of the grown-up world. How do they come to grips with this child-sized reality, inevitably designed by adults? How have archetypal dolls, cars or toy soldiers changed over the years? What has stayed constant and what has evolved? Have children always dreamed of being firemen or schoolmarms? All these questions focus on toys – rather than games, which imply rules – and the exhibition tries to answer them in a scientific, yet sensitive way. The exhibition has been organised jointly with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which has one of the biggest toy collections in Europe. Interesting exhibits have come from other prestigious French or international cultural institutions, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London, the Toy Museum, in Nuremberg or the Strong National Museum of Play, in Rochester, USA, as well as from many private collections throughout Europe. Whether they are mass-produced or crafted by famous artists such as Alexander Calder, Felix Garcia Torres or Benjamin Rabier, whether they are exceptional pieces or much-loved favourites, these toys teach us directly or indirectly about the world, its changes and history. The exhibits are supported by a wide range of paintings, posters, sculptures, films, videogames and clips.

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